Pitkin County unveils medical marijuana regulations
June 6, 2011
ASPEN – Limiting the cultivation of medical marijuana in Pitkin County to a level that essentially fulfills local needs is among the proposed regulations that will get an initial review this week.
Local governments in Colorado have until July 1 to establish their own regulations and licensing procedures for the medical marijuana industry, or to prohibit such facilities altogether; in jurisdictions that take no action, state standards will apply.
In Pitkin County, the drafting of regulations has been a work in progress since last September, when county commissioners advised staffers to take a light-handed approach to governing the industry and to talk with neighborhood caucuses about what they’d like to see. The resulting proposals will go to the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday and county commissioners on Wednesday.
The proposed rules reflect the outcome of meetings with neighborhood caucuses around the county, notes Lance Clarke, the county’s deputy director of community development.
For example, medical marijuana businesses would be prohibited in the areas overseen by the Fryingpan and Snowmass/Capitol Creek caucuses, and dispensaries would not be allowed on Redstone Boulevard.
Citizens also said they didn’t want the county to be a growing site that serves dispensaries elsewhere, Clarke said, so the proposed regulations don’t allow the total number of licensed “grow sites” to exceed the total number of dispensaries in the county – an area that includes unincorporated Pitkin County and its municipalities.
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Currently, Clarke said, there are seven dispensaries in the county (most of them are in Aspen) and six grow sites, so present circumstances meet the proposed limitation.
“The idea is having a balance between the two,” Clarke explained. “We should try to be sustainable for our own needs – the needs of Pitkin County. We should have a balance between dispensaries and grow sites and not become a grow site for Denver and Boulder.”
State law requires dispensaries to grow at least 70 percent of the product they sell.
In unincorporated Pitkin County, dispensaries would be allowed only at the Airport Business Center, although one has been permitted in Holland Hills, taking advantage of a pre-existing medical use in a commercial building. The manufacture of “marijuana-infused” products – cookies and brownies and such – would also be allowed at the ABC, but not in buildings that contain residences.
Grow sites would be limited to the rural areas of the county, including residential areas zoned for a density that’s no greater than a house per 10 acres. Growing facilities wouldn’t be allowed in such subdivisions as Mountain Valley, Red Mountain and Meadowood, Clarke said.
Cultivation facilities would not be allowed in multi-family or multi-tenant buildings or on lots smaller than 2 acres, and must be within an enclosed building, according to the proposals.
Medicinal pot businesses would not be allowed within 500 feet of a church, school, park, playground, child-care facility, community center or drug/alcohol rehabilitation facility, or within 200 feet of a residence on another parcel, except in the county’s B-2 zone, which exists only at the ABC.
The wildcard in the county’s proposed regulations relates to home-occupation businesses and “primary caregivers.”
The manufacture of edibles is allowed in home kitchens, though state law prohibits the use of a kitchen used in the production of marijuana products to also be used for general household cooking.
And, the county’s proposed regs regarding marijuana businesses in general prohibit off-site impacts such as light and odor.
The smell of baking cookies wafting out someone’s window is OK; the smell of pot-laced cookies is not.
“If your cookies smell like marijuana, you’re going to be in violation,” Clarke said.
What the state defines as a primary caregiver would also be allowed to operate out of a residence under the county’s home-occupation standards. A caregiver may have up to six registered patients and no more than five plants per patient. They are not licensed, but the caregiver and his or her patients are registered with the state, Clarke said.
In other words, a primary caregiver who meets certain home-occupation standards could operate pretty much anywhere in the unincorporated county, except in multi-family, multi-tenant and mixed-use buildings.
Except for primary caregivers, the county rules propose a business license for dispensaries, grow operations and infused-product manufacturers, though county doesn’t currently issue any business licenses. The medical marijuana businesses would be charged $2,000 initially and $500 for the annual license renewal.
“I proposed a license because the state is very much anticipating that’s what local governments are going to do,” Clarke said. “The other reason is for the fee, because this is taking a huge amount of staff time.”