Basalt moved a step closer to loosening its regulations on medical marijuana sales when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-1 Tuesday night to amend the town’s rules on facilities.
Basalt currently has some of the most stringent regulations among towns in the Roaring Fork Valley. Sales of medical marijuana are prohibited anywhere but in medical centers, hospitals or hospices. In addition, a moratorium bans medical marijuana sales. That prohibition is in effect until October.
The Town Council said in an informal work session last month that it wanted to end a moratorium as soon as possible, after updating its regulations.
A proposal by town staff was sent to the Planning Commission that expands possible locations of medical marijuana to industrial zones in part of the Southside neighborhood and part of the Basalt Industrial Park off Willits Lane. Sales facilities would still be prohibited within a 500-foot buffer around parks, within 500 feet of day care centers; or on corridors that schoolchildren travel as well as any area not zoned industrial. State regulations prohibit sales of medical marijuana within 1,000 feet of schools.
“The current proposal relates only to medical marijuana,” said a staff memo to the planning commission. “The purpose is to allow opportunities for medical marijuana facilities but to make sure that they do not negatively impact our school children.”
The proposed regulation also would allow only two medical marijuana sales facilities to be licensed. Growing and cultivation facilities would remain banned.
Recreational sales of marijuana in Basalt also are prohibited by a moratorium on facilities. Recreational sales will be reviewed in a separate process, according to Planning Director Susan Philp.
Planning Commission members saw only one red flag with the regulations. Commission Chairman Bernie Grauer noted that the current regulations ban “advertisements, signs, displays or other promotional materials depicting medical marijuana uses.”
“Does this mean they can’t have a sign on their door that says, ‘Medical marijuana sold here’?” Grauer said. “That to me is somewhat problematical — we’re allowing a business, but we’re not allowing it to be identified.”
Commission members said they could envision owners of medical marijuana sales facilities coming to the council for an exemption to that regulation.
“I personally would not want to start a business that I couldn’t advertise,” commission member Gary Wheeler said.
Grauer said he understands the concern about “signage with big marijuana joints.” However, the current rule seems to be “an extreme restriction on advertising,” he said.
The board decided to note the advertising issue and advise the Town Council to take it up. The amendments to the rules were approved by Grauer, Wheeler and Dylan Johns. Patrick McAllister voted against the changes.
The Town Council will review the changes to medical marijuana rules Dec. 10.