County considers marijuana licenses

 

Pitkin County officials are considering new licensing regulations for medical marijuana operations that would allow the local businesses to continue running here.

 

The county commissioners will discuss the regulations today. State marijuana authorities have asked for local ordinances to be passed by July 1.

 

The county board is considering appointing a licensing authority that would grant licenses to pot businesses, and instituting a fee of $1,000 for procuring such a license. A public hearing — and an extra $1,000 fee — would be required for businesses that have been the subject of complaints or had other issues.

 

Lauren Maytin, a local attorney who represents medical marijuana industry clients in Aspen and Denver, said she was generally supportive of the county rules. She sent the county a letter with critical questions and suggestions on the proposed ordinance last week.

 

“I thing they did a good job,” she said. “I think they want businesses to succeed and they’re setting people up to do so.”

 

Though marijuana grow operations have proliferated across the county, and medical marijuana shops have popped up throughout the Roaring Fork Valley in recent years, Pitkin County has not yet taken any official action on them.

 

The city of Aspen has issued standard business licenses for pot shops within its borders. New county rules would only apply to the marijuana businesses in unincorporated Pitkin County.

 

The commissioners last year discussed adding rules to the county land use code for marijuana operations. They ditched those on the advice of county attorney John Ely, who said the county would be at risk of federal prosecution if they sanctioned such businesses.

 

Possession and sale of marijuana remains a crime under federal law, though Colorado has legalized its use, sale and growth for medical purposes.

 

In January, the commissioners reversed course, as state marijuana authorities mandated a local government approval in order for businesses to procure a state license for a grow site or dispensary. The county’s inaction, therefore, was what Ely deemed in January “a de facto denial of licensing at the state level.”

 

Maytin lobbied the commissioners at that time for the county to pass regulations to sanction marijuana businesses. After reviewing the proposed regulations, she asked county officials to make some changes to them.

 

Among her concerns is a stipulation in the application for a license which requires business owners to defend Pitkin County, its officers and employers against any legal claims related to marijuana businesses.

 

“Can you really make the business owner defend Pitkin County?” she asked.

 

She also has asked the county to rethink its fees for pot businesses, suggesting that the cost of a license should be commensurate with the size of the operation, not a flat $1,000.

 

Tuesday’s hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room.

andrew@aspendailynews.com