How Snowmass’ moratorium on pot shops compares with other Colorado towns, what’s next | AspenTimes.com

How Snowmass’ moratorium on pot shops compares with other Colorado towns, what’s next

Marijuana plants grown in Colorado.

Snowmass Village is among a small handful of Colorado municipalities still in limbo on what to do with marijuana, which has been under a moratorium in the town since 2013. The moratorium is set to expire for a third time Oct. 31.

Colorado voters approved recreational marijuana sales in November 2012, and Snowmass Village voted 989-385 in favor of passing pot, according to election results from Pitkin County.

Other local governments with moratoriums on marijuana still in place include Dolores, Fleming, Florence and Jamestown, according to Snowmass Sun research as well as data from the Colorado Municipal League.

The CML, founded in 1923, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides services and resources to help town and city officials manage their governments.

Of these four jurisdictions, two moratoriums (in Florence and Jamestown) lack expiration dates and therefore are labeled by the CML as "permanent."

In Jamestown, the municipality is not actively discussing the issue or seeking to change its moratorium right now, Town Clerk Kristi Rutledge said July 31.

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The pot conversation also is less current in Florence, City Manager Mike Patterson said. "The City Council could reconsider the moratorium at any point," Patterson said July 31. "But I don't think they will."

The city manager said issues involving hemp growers and cross-pollination in neighboring areas have stifled talk of marijuana as of late.

He noted that under Colorado law, elected officials are able to change the status of "permanent" moratoriums at any time.

The town of Dolores' moratorium on marijuana is in place through Dec. 31., according to the CML.

In Fleming, a town in Logan County with about 400 people, the moratorium expired more than three years ago, the CML states. One of the two town staff members, who declined to give a last name, said the Town Council is still contemplating whether Fleming should ban or allow marijuana shops.

Snowmass' latest progress in reaching a resolution before its moratorium expires again this fall came in late June, when council voted 3-2 for town staff to develop the regulatory scheme for allowing dispensaries.

Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler and Town Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk, both of whom argued that the question of pot shops should go to voters in the November election, were the dissenting votes.

Despite Butler's attempts at reversing the council's direction with pot shops in the village, the motion still stands.

At a work session July 9, Butler asked how many signatures are required to petition for a ballot question, to which Town Clerk Rhonda Coxon estimated about 190.

In a follow-up interview July 30, Butler said she inquired about a petition because she knows of "many people within the community who are a little upset that they didn't have the right to participate in the decision of pot or not."

While the mayor made clear that she is not interested in organizing a petition, she said that, "A lot of people have told me they would sign the petition, but they don't want to run it," noting the amount of work such an effort would require.

Asked about the results of the town's three-question marijuana questionnaire, which revealed that 55 percent of full-time residents believe dispensaries should be allowed, Butler argued that a "very small" pool of registered Snowmass voters participated in the survey.

With 1,915 active voters registered in Snowmass Village and 283 survey respondents who indicated they are registered voters, approximately 15 percent of registered Snowmass voters completed the questionnaire, according to town spokesman Travis Elliot.

The survey, which the town conducted from Dec. 21 to Jan. 21, garnered 540 responses deemed "complete." It also revealed that a majority (71 percent) of part-time residents believe pot shops should be prohibited in Snowmass.

Next to the vote on Base Village in 2004, Butler said she believes the issue of marijuana is "one of the major issues that will change the fabric of our community and what it's known for."

Since the council majority voted favorably with developing the regulatory framework for allowing dispensaries, the elected officials also have since discussed posing an additional sales tax on recreational marijuana.

The council, which during its last discussion was divided on whether it should implement the added sales tax, will revisit the question at its next meeting in which all five elected officials will be present Aug. 6. If the council opts for the additional sales tax, Snowmass voters will have the final say in the November election. Ballot language is due to the Pitkin County clerk Sept. 7.

The Snowmass Town Council is expected to further discuss and review how it will regulate pot shops at its next regular meeting Monday.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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