Commissioners Approve Moratorium on New Pot Businesses
MONTROSE – Elected officials in Montrose County are prepared to go to great lengths to keep the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes out of the county and, furthermore, questioned the wisdom of Colorado voters for passing Amendment 64 last November.
On Monday, the Montrose Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution that enacts a six-month, temporary moratorium for the commercial growing or dispensing of marijuana. Because current zoning regulations don’t address the impacts of commercial marijuana facilities, and because the State of Colorado has not approved any commercial sale regulations, the commissioners deemed it appropriate on Monday to pass the moratorium.
The Colorado Legislature has until July 1, 2013 to produce guidelines on the commercial sale of recreational marijuana, but that’s something Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap doesn’t see happening.
“I can almost assure you there will be no guidelines by July 1, 2013,” Dunlap told the commissioners. “Right now, there is nothing in the works. They are pushing as hard as they can to get something enacted but we know how slow of a process that can be.”
Along with the state, local governments across Colorado are scrambling to understand the impact Amendment 64 will have and how, or even if, commercial sale regulations should be considered. Amendment 64 allows Colorado residents 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use and sets a foundation for regulations to oversee the legal cultivation and sale of the substance. While a six-month moratorium was approved, the commissioners said on Monday they would like to take it farther than that, despite the county’s vision statement of being “responsive to citizen needs, quality of life, and individual liberty.”
“From my perspective, I am not looking for a way to make this happen, I am looking for a way to not let this happen in this county,” Commissioner Gary Ellis said. “We don’t need this nonsense. I am not sure what voters in the state of Colorado were thinking, but if we can prevent it from happening here, that is my position.”
“That is my position,” Dunlap said. “I think the voters of Montrose County stated how they felt about it.”
Statewide the landmark amendment passed with 55 percent of voters supporting it compared to the 44 percent who voted against it. In Montrose County, however, 56 percent of voters voted against the amendment with 44 percent supporting it.
The resolution adopted on Tuesday could mark the second county in Colorado to pass such a moratorium on the building of commercial marijuana operations. The Denver Post reported on Nov. 28 that Douglas County was set to be one of the first counties to pass an ordinance prohibiting marijuana cultivation and retail stores made legal by Amendment 64. Like Montrose County, a majority of Douglas County voters also rejected the amendment.
Commissioner David White brought up the notion that the sale and recreational marijuana use is still a federal offense and asked Dunlap what his office will do if deputies come across a citizen carrying marijuana.
“We don’t enforce federal law; we can’t enforce federal law,” Dunlap said. “We will be focused on the underage possession or consumption, and DUI, which there is no baseline to go from…I need to set up a meeting with the district attorney and discuss how we are going to prosecute these cases.”
The moratorium passed by the commissioners on Monday does not affect existing medical marijuana facilities and states that no later than 45 days prior to its expiration date, county staff must report to the commissioners on the status of any new state regulations. The commissioners can extend the moratorium another six months if deemed necessary.