Pitkin Commissioners: Green light for Aspen pot jerky
After wringing their hands over marijuana edibles for the past two months, Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the county’s first edible manufacturing facility.
High Mountain Taxi Owner Todd Gardner, whose team included lawyers, a land-use consultant and a chemist, impressed the commissioners with a professional application that addressed their numerous concerns over the course of two meetings. Gardner plans to produce buffalo jerky under the name Cannabis Queen Jerky at a facility located at his taxi headquarters at the Aspen Business Center.
“It was a long process,” said Gardner, who told commissioners he’s spent more than $500,000 on the project.
Commissioners Patti Clapper, Rachel Richards and Steve Child appeared to be on their way to denying the project during a board meeting April 27. However, Gardner and his team asked for a continuance at that time to address commissioner concerns and to allow Commissioners George Newman and Michael Owsley, who were not present, to participate in the vote.
Child, in particular, proposed several conditions for the project in April that were incorporated into Tuesday’s approval. Those include stamping a THC brand on each piece of jerky, making sure it is sold in child-proof packaging, ensuring that each piece contains only 10 mg of THC, limiting the amount of pesticide in the marijuana used to extract the cannabis oil to that allowed by Colorado law and not allowing a sign announcing the business on the property.
The company also voluntarily will include a card with each piece of jerky containing information about how to safely ingest the product. It will purchase buffalo meat from South Dakota, dry it at the Aspen Business Center and infuse it with oil it extracts from marijuana flower it purchases.
Cannabis Queen Jerky will not have a retail space. And if any complaints or issues arise, commissioners could yank the business’ license.
However, the company also might not be in business after the year-long license granted Tuesday runs out. Commissioners are waiting on recommendations about edibles from a valley marijuana safety group that may eventually lead them to ban edibles in the county.
Richards, who was the most reluctant to approve the jerky application, said she wants to re-examine codes that appear to welcome people to set up marijuana edible businesses in Pitkin County.
“I would like to make this our last (edibles) facility,” she said. “I want the board to talk seriously about eliminating that.”
Both Richards and Clapper said they continue to have serious concerns about the safety of edibles and the message they send to children.
Owsley said he was in favor of granting the license for a year and to spend the next year considering the recommendations from the Valley Marijuana Council and the feelings of the community.
Child said he thinks Pitkin County can lead the way when it comes to edibles.
“I really feel like Pitkin County can be a leader in the state on the marijuana thing,” he said.
Newman, who has consistently voted against most marijuana-related project, echoed those statements.
“I’m actually going to support this, which is sort of a surprise,” Newman said. “We’ve had a much better discussion on this issue than the city.
“We’re setting a high bar. I’d like to see us continue that.”
Commissioners repeatedly complimented Gardner on the breadth of his application and said they appreciated that he wasn’t trying to sell infused candy, popcorn or gum. The board denied an application in March from a local woman who wanted to produce those sugary products at a kitchen at the Aspen Business Center.
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