Snowmass Town Council wants public feedback on pot shops
Should Snowmass welcome pot shops in the village?
The town’s next step in answering this question is to learn what people — especially full-time Snowmass residents — think of this hot-button issue.
At a work session Monday, Town Councilman Tom Goode said the council has received many letters from second-home owners, most of which offer a similar tone of opposing marijuana in Snowmass.
“That’s really wonderful and everything,” Goode said, “but I’d like to hear from everybody.”
The town first implemented its moratorium on medical and recreational marijuana establishments in September 2013, after Colorado voters approved recreational pot sales in November 2012. The council in late February voted unanimously to extend the moratorium, which is in effect until Oct. 31, 2018.
Per the Town Council’s request to staff at its last work session on marijuana July 10, Snowmass Town Manager Clint Kinney on Monday presented information as to how other mountain resort towns have handled marijuana, its regulations, sales and taxes.
Kinney also spoke with the town manager of Breckenridge, which permits marijuana dispensaries to operate in certain areas.
Like other Colorado jurisdictions, the town of Breckenridge posed an additional municipal tax rate of 5 percent on top of the state’s 15 percent sales tax.
Kinney told the council some of his key takeaways from Breckenridge included insight on regulating locations, as the town initially allowed pot shops downtown but later banned dispensaries along its main street. Now, these shops operate in the town’s industrial area, Kinney said.
With this, odor is also “a big issue that needs to be considered,” he said.
Kinney also inquired on Breckenridge’s image and how allowing marijuana and pot shops may influence this, which the Snowmass Town Council has looked at in its ongoing “community values versus dollars” debate.
“(Breckenridge) said at first, they certainly had some tourists that were turned off by it,” Kinney said. “But (now) it has been legal long enough there that they haven’t seen any negatives due to it.”
In April, Breckenridge grossed $18,658 from pot sales of $223,896, while Aspen collected $18,997 in tax on sales of $227,964, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue’s most recent report.
Kinney also told the Snowmass council, “there is a not a cookbook way of doing it.” Each municipality has regulated pot shops differently, he said, and how Snowmass wishes to proceed is up to the council and community.
If the town was to allow marijuana sales, Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler asked if it could risk losing grants or funding from the federal government.
Snowmass Town Attorney John Dresser said contrary to what some people involved or within the industry seem to believe, it is possible.
“In the grant contracts, there’s a compliance paragraph (or) clause that says, ‘You’ll comply with all federal, state and local laws, and you’re libel to lose them’,” Dresser explained. “But that question comes up at every marijuana seminar I’ve been to, and everyone says, ‘Oh that’ll never happen.’ But the contract says different.”
He added, “When this council considered whether to opt out after the constitutional provisions, one of the concerns was what was the next administration going to do.”
Butler asked the town attorney what are the “signals” he’s seeing from the federal government on this issue, to which Dresser responded, “paralysis.”
At the work session Monday, the council also discussed briefly where pot shops could potentially operate in town as well as where the marijuana sales taxes could be applied.
“It’s very possible there could be no place for these shops to go,” Snowmass Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk said.
Pointing to Snowmass’ commercial spaces, Shenk said the majority owner of the Snowmass Mall, Related Cos., is not interested in offering pot shops in that space.
Further, Aspen Skiing Co., a part owner of Base Village, “has taken a position against (pot shops) for sure” on its properties, Kinney said.
Aside from a few smaller commercial properties, this leaves only the Snowmass Center as a prospective site, Shenk said.
As for any additional tax revenue, Councilman Bill Madsen proposed setting it toward the town’s $100,000 annual commitment to the Aspen School District, while Butler looked at the town’s trails system.
“But really, we have to get into the values versus revenue discussion,” Butler said, “and that needs to happen in a public session.”
Kinney said he would draft a questionnaire, which will eventually be distributed to the community, to bring before the council at a meeting within the next couple of weeks.