Marijuana sales moving forward in Snowmass Village | AspenTimes.com

Marijuana sales moving forward in Snowmass Village

After several diversions and one final failed attempt by the Town Council minority to get a ballot measure, Snowmass Village is on track to permit pot shops in the near future.

Now that the possibility of taking the question to voters is dead — Tuesday's meeting was the council's last chance to approve a ballot question, with the deadline to submit language to the Pitkin County clerk on Friday — the town will continue to develop its regulatory framework for allowing dispensaries.

Tuesday's discussion was brief but tense. Members of the public and council on more than one occasion said they were offended by arguments from counter sides.

Since the council voted 3-2 in late June for town staff to begin crafting the scheme, Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler has asked her fellow elected officials at several meetings to reconsider its motion. The conversation each time was short-lived, however, as no one's position wavered.

Butler's latest plea came last week, when she said the question of having pot shops in town is a gender issue because the three councilmen support the sale of recreational marijuana in Snowmass, while she and councilwoman Alyssa Shenk do not.

The mayor at Tuesday's meeting expanded on her "male versus female" argument and brought mothers into the mix.

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"Mothers are all about protecting their young. I don't care if it's a bird, I don't care if it's an animal," Butler said. "We all know that mothers only focus on that and I don't feel that women's voices have been heard at all on this issue."

Town Councilman Bill Madsen retorted, "This is not a male and female issue. This is not mothers against fathers.

"I take a little bit of offense to that," he said, adding that he is a father and equally does not want his 15-year-old son smoking pot.

The councilman said he also finds it "hypocritical" for the town to oppose pot shops and accept liquor stores.

Town Councilman Bob Sirkus offered a similar point, noting the number of events in Snowmass Village centered around consuming alcohol.

"It's not a big deal in Colorado," Sirkus said, adding shortly after, "As a council we should take responsibility for what we we're elected to do, which is work and deal with the tough issues."

Madsen concluded, "I just think that this ship has sailed. … I think we're ready to move forward" — another view that's been echoed by the council majority for the better of this summer.

Town Councilman Tom Goode said the council has "wasted a lot of time and money on this issue," which Butler found insulting.

For her part, Shenk acknowledged that while marijuana sales "may bring in money," she questioned if it is worth altering Snowmass' feel.

During public comment, part-time Snowmass resident Pat Keefer said the "resort community," or part-time residents, deserve a say.

According to the town's marijuana survey that was conducted from December to January, part-time residents are predominately against dispensaries in Snowmass.

Keefer pointed to the federal government and families visiting from states where marijuana is illegal as a reason to not OK pot shops.

She also suggested the ballot question be mailed to the part-timers' primary residence.

To Keefer's point in considering tourists, Butler said, "Being from Michigan, I wouldn't come (to Snowmass). I'd go to Vail, for that reason."

Dispensaries have been under a moratorium in Snowmass Village since 2013, after Colorado voters approved recreational pot sales in November 2012. The moratorium, which the town extended in February 2017, will expire Oct. 31.

Another majority vote to not add the question of pot shops on the ballot is where the council landed Tuesday.

In a "perfect world," town spokesman Travis Elliot said, the town will finalize the scheme before the moratorium expires next month.

Town Council is expected to review the guidelines again at its next work session on Tuesday. The elected officials first saw and discussed the framework at its last work session Aug. 13.

If the council does not agree on a scheme by Oct. 31, it will have to decide whether to extend the moratorium again, Town Manager Clint Kinney said after the meeting. A moratorium can be set for any amount of time.

Snowmass Village in 2012 voted 989-385 in favor of legalizing pot, according to election results from Pitkin County.

While the Snowmass electorate will not be asked whether they want pot shops, voters will get to decide if the town should pose an additional 5 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

As of Tuesday, Snowmass Village was home to 1,892 active registered voters, according to Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill.

A few proposals in the first draft of Snowmass' regulatory framework include the creation of a new zone-district overlay, a minimum 300-foot distance between pot shops, maximum operating hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., odor enforcement and restrictions on advertising and signage.

The Town Council work session next Tuesday will begin at 4 p.m. at Snowmass Town Hall.

erobbie@aspentimes.com