Pitkin County licensing authority set for retail marijuana | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County licensing authority set for retail marijuana

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

The Pitkin County commissioners took another step toward establishing recreational retail-marijuana rules and regulations by officially passing an ordinance that makes the clerk and recorder the county’s licensing authority.

Even with an official licensing authority now in place, the county still cannot issue any recreational retail-marijuana licenses. The commissioners must first establish specific standards and procedures for local licensing of marijuana establishments that will engage in cultivation, manufacture, sales and testing of recreational retail-marijuana and marijuana products.

Regulations pertaining to licensing criteria and requirements for recreational retail-marijuana licenses in unincorporated Pitkin County will be discussed in future board work sessions.

No retail marijuana licenses can be issued before Jan. 1, by either the county or the state of Colorado.

By designating a local licensing authority before Oct. 1, Pitkin County is now eligible to receive half of any county marijuana licensing fees the state receives.

The commissioners voted, 4-1, in favor of the ordinance, with Commissioner George Newman the lone dissenting vote.

Commissioner Rob Ittner claimed that a ban was being placed on issuing any recreational retail-marijuana licenses because the rules and regulations are not in place.

“It’s not our intention, I don’t think, to be a ban forever,” Ittner said. “It’s a ban so we have time and information to study what’s appropriate regarding our local jurisdiction’s duty and responsibility to set the guidelines for the retail shops and the grow operations for recreational marijuana.”

Commissioner Rachel Richards then sought clarification on Ittner’s terminology as she disagreed with the idea that there was a ban of any type being raised.

“I don’t think that’s quite accurate,” Richards said. “The state will not be issuing any licenses for anyone until January. If we have (our) rules and regulations in place by January, applications would be reviewed under those rules and regulations. It’s just not possible to obtain a license from us, or the state, until after Jan. 1.”

Ittner agreed and said what he was trying to get across was that the county needed to complete its guidelines before any licensing can be issued.

Commissioner Michael Owsley sounded confident that the board would get the rules and regulations in place in a timely manner.

“I don’t think it’s that complicated,” Owsley said. “There’s some areas of the county that don’t want to have anything to do with it whatsoever. Other areas of the county are more laissez faire … 75 percent of Pitkin County voted for this amendment, so I think it’s incumbent upon us to get this done and get it done by January.”

Newman agreed with Richards that there was no ban in place and the time before Jan. 1 allows the board time to set some foundation for the rules and regulations.

Newman pointed out that as of Sept. 13, 42 of 64 counties in Colorado already had claimed they were not going to allow any recreational retail-marijuana sales. Within those 42 counties, nine have put forth a temporary ban just to get a better idea on how this is going to play out next year.

“Only six counties to date said they are going to allow (recreational) retail-marijuana,” Newman said. “So even though we have a high percentage here that voted for Amendment 64, I think there’s probably different reasons why people voted for that. It may not be that they wanted to see cultivation farms next to their property, or retail shops, but they understand that marijuana should be decriminalized.“

Throughout the initial discussions concerning the regulating of recreational retail-marijuana, Commissioner Steve Child has never hid his intentions to see Pitkin County take the lead in establishing a solid groundwork of rules and regulations.

“I think we should all keep in mind that this is an opportunity for Pitkin County to come up with really good model regulations that can be copied by other counties in the state,” Child said. “There’s a responsibility to do this right and not blow it. This is new territory we’re all getting into. The federal government has already said if we don’t get it right in Colorado that they retain the authority to step in and shut down marijuana operations here. It’s really incumbent on us to come up with something really good that everyone can abide by.”

Regulations pertaining to licensing criteria and requirements for recreational retail-marijuana licenses in unincorporated Pitkin County will be discussed in future board work sessions.