Aspen outlines regulations for marijuana dispensaries |

Aspen outlines regulations for marijuana dispensaries

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

The city of Aspen has outlined its recommendations for the City Council concerning local retail marijuana businesses.

If council follows the recommendations, only a handful of retailers will be allowed in town initially, consumption at private “pot clubs” will be prohibited and marijuana will be regulated much like alcohol.

That’s according to a memo to the City Council, which will be under consideration at Monday’s work session.

Among the recommendations are that the number of recreational marijuana retailers in Aspen be no greater than the number of established medical dispensaries for the first year or two. Currently there are three — Alternative Medical Solutions, Leaf Aspen and Silverpeak Apothecary.

Those businesses are eligible to apply for retail licenses Oct. 1. With approval, they can begin selling recreationally Jan. 1. Medical operations could resume under the same roof as recreational only if businesses prohibit patients younger than 21, according to the memo.

Like alcohol, public consumption of marijuana would be prohibited. However, state law is unclear whether marijuana can be sold at quasi-public spaces, such as restaurants, bars and membership clubs, the memo says.

The city recommends against allowing pot clubs so that Aspen doesn’t become the testing ground for pot legislation.

“Our suggestion is: Let someone else figure that out,” said Chris Bendon, Aspen Community Development director. “Someone will try to push the envelope to see the extent of the law. … This whole arena is going to evolve.”

Benson said city officials also are concerned that commercial-building owners might turn retail spaces into private venues, which would “basically look like my living room,” and the only members would be the owners’ friends. “And the whole thing becomes a gigantic mansion.”

Medical marijuana sales are subject to sales taxes, and so far, Aspen has collected more than $100,000 from the three existing facilities since they opened in 2009.

In November, Colorado is proposing an additional 15 percent tax on sales from cultivation facilities and a 10 percent tax on retail sales.

Local jurisdictions can propose an increase in local taxes, as well, but the deadline has passed for Aspen. Jurisdictions that allow retail facilities will be getting a portion of the state’s 10 percent sales tax, if it passes.

Application and licensing fees likely will be similar to those for liquor retailers. Local jurisdictions can collect one-half of the state application fee: Medical dispenseries will have to pay a $500, while all others will have to pay $5,000.

The city does not see a need for a buffer between schools and pot shops. Because schools are sufficiently removed from commercial areas, the buffer would be redundant, the memo says. A buffer also is counter to how the city regulates pharmacies and liquor stores.

Amendment 64 — the measure that legalized marijuana in Colorado — passed statewide with a vote of 55 percent in favor. In Pitkin County, the vote was 75.44 percent in favor.

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