Aspen officials put discussion of pot clubs on hold
Ryan Summerlin February 5, 2013
ASPEN – Private pot clubs, which have sprouted up in a few places across the state since Amendment 64 passed in November, won’t find their way into Aspen anytime soon.
The City Council on Monday decided to follow Community Development Director Chris Bendon’s suggestion to wait until the Colorado General Assembly establishes its regulations in the wake of the referendum, which calls for the state to regulate marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.
“Our recommendation is to chill,” Bendon joked during the council’s joint work session with the city Planning and Zoning Commission.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss future policy related to the land-use code, development regulations and review processes. “Address Private Pot Clubs” was No. 13 on the list of more than 20 items.
“The Community Development Department has received a number of inquiries regarding the ability for someone to open a private pot club,” a memorandum from Bendon and long-range planner Jessica Garrow said.
City Attorney Jim True said the city’s zoning rules don’t allow private clubs. The Caribou Club on East Hopkins Avenue is allowed to operate because it opened before the zoning ban on private clubs went into effect. Clubs such as Elks and Eagles are fraternal organizations and don’t count as commercial private clubs, Bendon said.
Therefore, before a private pot club could open in Aspen, the city would have to rewrite its zoning regulations.
Though the Legislature has yet to adopt its rules for recreational marijuana, cities and towns across the state have been taking matters into their own hands by creating laws that either conform to or seek to block the intent of Amendment 64.
The measure doesn’t allow pot to be smoked in public places, which is why some individuals have sought to open private pot clubs. At these marijuana “dens,” people pay a membership fee to join other users and sample different strains of cannabis.
Councilman Torre said the issue of private pot clubs remains “on my radar.”
“This community needs to be prepared to deal with the new reality of marijuana in Colorado,” he said. “We are a resort community. There’s going to be extra pressure on us for … something. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I think we need to be ahead of that issue and keep our ears open to what’s going on in Denver.”