Pitkin County denies pot edibles manufacturing business
Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday denied a local woman’s application to open a kitchen at the Aspen Business Center that would have manufactured marijuana-infused edibles.
“The (marijuana) legalization train left the station at a good clip, and I’m not sure our communities have caught up,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards. “The messaging is this isn’t a drug. This isn’t serious. It’s just a piece of candy.”
And that message – which Richards said was driven home by a 90-minute discussion commissioners had last week about marijuana edibles with Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, county staff members and officials from valley public health, anti-drug and youth organizations – is the wrong one to send to the community’s children.
“Nobody puts a bottle of hard alcohol in a Halloween basket,” Richards said. “Things that look like candy, smell like candy and taste like candy are too dangerous to my mind.”
Commissioner Patti Clapper agreed, saying that commissioners cannot disapprove of edibles that appeal to children on one hand, then approve an edibles manufacturing facility on the other.
“That would fly in the face of the community,” Clapper said. “I understand your products would be in child-proof containers, but I’m worried about (edible marijuana) products out of containers.”
Clapper also said the facility’s proximity to a daycare center – which she reminded her colleagues was only brought to light after she mentioned it during a previous meeting – also concerned her.
“I’m sorry, but there’s just too many outstanding concerns,” Clapper said.
Sonya Bolerjack submitted the application for the facility nearly a year ago and proposed to produce marijuana-infused gum, popcorn and candy under the name “Aspen Mountain High.” She told commissioners Wednesday she planned to purchase cannabis oils to make the products and did not plan to extract the oil at the ABC facility.
Bolerjack, who was born and raised in Aspen, also said that as a mother of two small children, keeping marijuana edibles out of the hands of children was “a huge concern of mine.”
“I really want to up the standards of the packaging,” she said. “(The products) won’t look like Cheeba Chews.”
Cheeba Chews are a popular marijuana edible available statewide that comes wrapped in colorful, candy-like packaging.
Edibles produced by her company would be sold in sealed, child-proof pill bottle containers, Bolerjack said.
“It’s up to parents, if they consume the product, to keep it away from children,” she said.
A man who appeared Wednesday with Bolerjack but later declined to give his name also pointed out that many different edible products were for sale at the seven marijuana dispensaries in the city of Aspen, not far from the location of Wednesday’s meeting.
Commissioners and county staff members also had other concerns about the facility, including its ventilation system, how marijuana-infused waste would be handled and the daycare issue. Laws state that a marijuana-related business cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a daycare.
In the case of Aspen Mountain High, a daycare is located within 1,000 feet of the business’ property line, but it is further than 1,000 feet from the actual building where the edibles would have been produced, said Jeanette Jones, the board’s records manager.
County staff recommended against approving the project, according to county documents.
Commissioner Steve Child said that if the proposed business was further from the daycare and could produce products that were readily identifiable as containing marijuana – such as being stamped with a marijuana leaf or being dyed green – he could support it.
“This just isn’t the right proposal in the right place,” Child said.
Finally, Sheriff DiSalvo pointed to last week’s discussion about edibles and also cast doubt on the Aspen Mountain High application at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Products appealing to children – I’d like to discourage that,” he said, adding that perhaps edibles should only be made available in pill form.
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