Grand County moves toward additional marijuana regulation, fees | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County moves toward additional marijuana regulation, fees

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Current and future applicants for retail and medical marijuana licenses in Grand County could see an increase in fees as well as changes to regulations for special use permits.

The Grand County Board of Commissioners moved toward instating additional special use permit regulations for marijuana businesses after hearing a list of concerns from County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene at their Tuesday, April 7 meeting.

Rosene, whose office handles county licensing for marijuana businesses, asked that the board address issues like facility lighting, odor control, water availability and license density in county regulations.

"I would like for the board to consider a clear definition of the requirements that have to fit into the license, and if this is part of the (Community Development Department) then I'm fine with that," Rosene said.

Ultimately, the board decided that the county planning and zoning department, which issues special use permits for marijuana businesses, should address those matters in new special use permit regulations. Planning and zoning is part of the Community Development Department.

Assistant County Manager Bill Moyer, who oversees the department, said community development would begin the process of developing new regulations with the planning commission.

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Additionally, Rosene asked that the commissioners move to increase fees for county licensing to cover costs.

During the meeting, the commissioners discussed imposing a 90-day moratorium on license applications in order to address the new regulations, though they ultimately decided against it.

"I think the 90-day moratorium or any length of a moratorium is more obstructionist," said Commissioner James Newberry.

Rosene and the board seemed to agree that the county should continue to accept applications while notifying applicants that regulations and fees could change, though it was unclear whether that would be legal.

"Going forward I think we need to get some clarity from legal to see what we need to do," said Commissioner Merrit Linke.

Issues not new

The regulatory issues the county now hopes to address have risen repeatedly in previous licensing hearings.

One of the more contentious subjects has been the proximity of businesses to residences.

The State of Colorado regulates the proximity of marijuana businesses to child care centers and certain other businesses, but neither the state nor county regulates distance from residences.

"My personal opinion on that is I think it should have been in there to begin with," said Commissioner Kris Manguso.

The commissioners expressed support for changing distance regulations, but Newberry said the county might need to address that issue in a public hearing.

Petition guidelines

Commissioners also discussed how to weigh petitions that are included in license applications.

In previous hearings, the board has given more weight to signatures from residents within two miles of a proposed facility, a practice the board would like to see in writing.

Linke also suggested the county instate a process for vetting the addresses of signatures.

"It makes me feel better to know that they are checked and verified that they live within that two mile radius," Linke said.

Commissioners also supported adding language to county regulations that require background checks of all marijuana business employees.

Commissioners also discussed the possibility of adding a hearing to the yearly license renewal process.

License fee increases

The board expressed support for increasing licensing fees to cover what Rosene said were unforeseen costs for completing licenses.

"After reviewing the licenses that we received we found out that it's taken a lot more time than expected," Rosene said.

In previous hearings, citizens have expressed support for an excise tax on marijuana sales and manufacturing, but Rosene said she was unsure if the county had the authority to levy such a tax.

Manguso said she believed increased fees could be a happy medium between an excise tax and the current system.

Resident Don McDavid expressed support for fee increases.

"I don't think fees should be punitive, but they should definitely cover the county's cost," he said.

Commissioners didn't state specifically how much they would like to see fees go up.

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