Does Aspen want to allow the retail sale of marijuana? If it does, how many businesses will get licenses? Where will those shops be allowed to open? Will the city collect on taxes and fees?
These are some of the questions the city of Aspen is addressing before Oct. 1, when local governments can begin accepting applications for recreational-marijuana business licenses.
According to city Community Development Director Chris Bendon, Aspen would look to regulate marijuana much like alcohol. There would be limitations on public consumption, and pot shops would operate much like liquor stores.
“It’s very analogous using alcohol as a model,” he said, adding that the local liquor board would be the likely one to distribute licenses.
Assistant City Attorney Deborah Quinn said the deadline for Aspen to consider taxes this year has passed. Other jurisdictions in Colorado have added the question of taxation to the November ballot. At the state level, there is a proposed 15 percent excise tax on wholesale pot and a 10 percent special state sales tax. That’s in addition to the standard sales tax of 2.9 percent. Quinn said taxing on marijuana in Aspen will be discussed in the future.
Aspen City Council will review the legislation at a work session that begins at 5 p.m. Monday. Bendon said the public can weigh in on the issue before the meeting, which takes place in the basement of City Hall at 130 S. Galena St. Mayor Steve Skadron also suggested public comment during the meeting, similar to the feedback received about the USA Pro Challenge.
Bendon said the city will contact local medical marijuana dispensers concerning the laws. Existing medical facilities in Colorado will have the first shot at converting to recreational sales. After nine months, the state will open the market to other applicants. Medical dispensers will have to pay a $500 application fee to convert, while all others will have to pay a $5,000 fee.
Council member Adam Frisch said having a handful of recreational pot shops in Aspen will draw tourism into the local economy. Starting Jan. 1, retailers can start selling, and he said it will be interesting to see what kind of demand Aspen sees.