County officially ends pot moratorium
Grand County’s year-old marijuana moratorium will soon be a thing of the past.
The Grand County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved an updated ordinance governing the county’s marijuana regulatory regime. Included in the ordinance was the repeal of the county-wide moratorium on marijuana business licenses and applications.
The moratorium will formally expire on Feb. 28, after which the county will once again accept, process and consider new applications for marijuana businesses in unincorporated Grand County. The new ordinance does not impact the regulation of marijuana businesses in the various municipalities of Grand County.
During Tuesday’s public hearing on the issue, which featured no public comments from residents, the commissioners delved into a discussion regarding the ongoing state of legalized cannabis in the United States.
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a Justice Department memo, known as the Cole memo, which established prosecutorial guidelines that allowed the marijuana industry to flourish at the state level under former President Obama. The new guidelines established by the Trump DOJ defer decisions to prosecute marijuana to federal attorneys throughout the nation.
“All three of us did receive an email from an individual who thought we should consider continuing the moratorium because of what has happened with the Justice Department,” Commissioner Kristen Manguso said.
“It seemed to be a strange request,” Commissioner Richard Cimino said. “I think continuing the moratorium on new applications doesn’t help us at all in avoiding any issues with Justice. We are vulnerable now.”
“So are the existing businesses,” Manguso replied. “It is a business decision. They understand what is happening.”
Commissioner Linke outlined a recent nationwide conference call he participated in that included elected officials from many of the states with legalized marijuana.
“This was a big concern,” Linke said. “But the general consensus was that nobody knew for sure what was going to happen.”
David Michel, general counsel for recreational marijuana business IgadI in Tabernash, explained the legal dynamics of the recent Justice Department actions. Michel informed the commissioners that the new directives allow U.S. Attorneys to exercise their own discretion on whether to pursue retail marijuana prosecutions or not.
“[The U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado] issued a memo and a statement that basically indicated to everybody that it is going to be business as usual,” Michel said.
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