The Snowmass Village Town Council voted 4-1 Monday night to extend a moratorium on retail and medical marijuana shops until March 15, 2017. The moratorium was scheduled to expire July 1.
Town Attorney John Dresser said he selected the date to provide 60 days after the next presidential administration is seated to see if there is a change in the federal approach to enforcing marijuana laws in Colorado.
Dresser said he wasn’t trying to be “arch-conservative” but wanted to advise the council in what he felt was the most practical way.
Even though Colorado residents voted to ease marijuana laws, there is no guarantee that the federal government will continue to allow retail marijuana sales, according to Dresser.
“Possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law,” he said. An executive order by President Obama has prevented prosecution of marijuana laws in Colorado. That could conceivably change when a new president takes office, Dresser said.
Councilman Jason Haber cast the lone vote against the extension. “I do feel this is an overly conservative approach,” he said.
Snowmass Village’s neighboring towns in the Roaring Fork Valley haven’t prevented retail pot shops from opening out of concern that the federal approach might change, Haber noted. Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs allow retail pot shops. Basalt is preparing regulations and intends to let a moratorium expire.
Haber also questioned if allowing retail pot shops would harm Snowmass Village’s efforts to brand itself as a family-friendly resort, as members of its marketing committee suggested.
Haber said he preferred working on regulations on the operation of pot shops since Colorado’s drug laws are “more likely here to stay.”
“I understand that’s maybe not the will of the majority, so I’m not going to press it,” he said.
Councilman Chris Jacobson said he was “still on the fence a little bit” on the issue.
Council members Markey Butler and Fred Kucker stressed that the marketing committee’s concerns over allowing retail pot shops influenced their direction. “We asked the people who ought to know best. They said ‘no,’” Kucker said.
Mayor Bill Boineau noted that Amendment 64, which cleared the path for legalization of up to one ounce of marijuana by a person at least 21 years of age in Colorado, passed 72 to 28 percent in Snowmass Village. He indicated the moratorium was a tough call for him as well, but he said he has heard concerns voiced by town residents about kids being exposed to pot.
Boineau and Jacobson ended up teaming with Butler and Kucker to approve the extension of the marijuana moratorium.
“I do feel this is an overly conservative approach.”
Councilman Jason Haber