Vail marijuana store ban gets first approval

On the other hand...

While state law allows towns to ban retail marijuana sales, recreational use is legal, with several “buts.” Recreational use isn’t allowed in public, and people in non-smoking hotel rooms or condos can’t light up there. And if you’re caught smoking in the forest, that remains a violation of federal law.

Still, with the increasing popularity of edibles and vaporizers, it’s easier than ever to be discreet about cannabis use.

VAIL — There aren’t any retail marijuana stores here now, and there won’t be any retail for the foreseeable future. The Vail Town Council on Tuesday voted 6-1 to give first-reading approval of a ban on retail marijuana stores, as well as cultivation facilities.

The ban, which will face a final-approval vote as soon as Aug. 4, replaces a temporary moratorium the town imposed in 2014. After a handful of extensions, council member Dave Chapin proposed a permanent ban at the council’s July 7 meeting.

In this case, though, “permanent” is a relative term. Chapin said Tuesday the council could overturn the current ordinance almost as soon as it’s passed. And, Vail voters in November will elect at least two and as many as four new council members.


Council member Greg Moffet cast the lone dissenting vote. Moffet said he’s not opposed to the ban as such, but he believed that current town code is sufficient to keep retail shops from opening. Moffet said town zoning currently doesn’t allow retail marijuana shops, and a specific ban wasn’t needed.

“It’s just unnecessary lawmaking,” Moffet said.

Council member Margaret Rogers said her personal preference would be to approve retail sales.

“I think it ought to be treated the way we treat liquor,” Rogers said, adding immediately she intended to vote for the ban. Her vote, she said, is influenced by the people she’s talked to and heard from, the vast majority of whom favored keeping retail stores out of town.

“I’ll vote for it because this is what the community wants,” Rogers said.

That community opinion seems to have changed in the past few years.

Vail voters in 2012 voted overwhelmingly for Amendment 64, the state constitutional amendment that legalized the use, cultivation and sale of marijuana for recreational use. State voters in 2001 had approved an amendment legalizing marijuana for medical uses.


But not long after the amendment passed, attitudes seem to have changed.

Addressing the council before they voted, Vail resident and former mayor Bob Armour cited a 2014 community survey in which 57 percent of respondents said they opposed retail marijuana stores in town.

In a Monday interview, Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey said a survey of that group’s members showed a majority against retail marijuana sales.

And there are retail marijuana stores close to Vail, with several in Eagle-Vail only about a 10-minute drive away. One of those shops operates a limo service to pick up customers who don’t want to make the trip.

Sentiment against retail stores was even more pronounced in letters and emails sent to council members.

Council member Dale Bugby said before Tuesday’s meeting that he’d seen more than 100 emails opposing retail sales, and only one or two against the prohibition.

Armour’s remarks to the council echoed comments heard around town about the ban — that retail shops aren’t needed in Vail and that not having those shops is another way the town is different from its competitors.

Of the state’s major ski towns — Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Aspen, Telluride and Crested Butte — Vail is the only one without retail marijuana stores.


In proposing the ordinance July 7, Chapin said he believes not having retail marijuana stores will earn Vail more visitors than it might lose.

In a phone message, Vail-based Realtor Led Gardner echoed that sentiment, saying, “I don’t think we need them here — it’s available in other places.”

Armour also believes not having retail marijuana shops in Vail will be a competitive advantage.

“Some of these places advertise they don’t have an interstate running through their towns,” Armour said. “Well, we can advertise that we don’t have any marijuana shops.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.