GC seeking temporary moratorium on marijuana
The Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a public meeting to consider introduction of an Ordinance Imposing a Temporary Moratorium on Marijuana Licenses at their Tuesday, October 25 regular meeting. At the end of the hearing the BOCC passed a motion to move forward with the process of imposing the moratorium.
Grand County Attorney Alan Hassler said the notice will be published in the Middle Park Times on Thursday, November 3. The state of Colorado marijuana regulations require 30 days after the notice before the ordinance can be voted upon. The BOCC meeting on Tuesday, December 6 will be the next meeting following the 30-day waiting period, and the commissioners said that is when they will vote on the ordinance. The ordinance would last until January 1, 2018.
Commissioner Merrit Linke suggested the moratorium, and all commissioners said they supported it. The public meeting included the commissioners’ discussion among themselves.
Linke said he believes this is the right time for Grand County to impose this following the lawsuit they are involved in with the Town of Winter Park regarding the Serene Wellness retail dispensary’s license approval.
“I think we need to review our [marijuana] ordinance and make sure it’s truly inline with what citizens want,” Linke said. “A couple things prompted me to bring this up, one was discussion at the state level about excise tax and whether it is legal. Linke pointed out that there are towns annexing properties where dispensaries are planned to collect revenue from excise taxes. Grand County does not currently have an excise tax on marijuana.
In August the BOCC decided not to pursue a marijuana excise tax for the ballot. Counties are specifically authorized to impose an excise tax on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana by a retail marijuana manufacturing facility, a retail marijuana store, or another retail grower. The tax may be imposed only through voter approval in a ballot question election. Once collected, local excise tax proceeds may be credited to the general fund or any special fund, and may be used for any purpose as determined by the governing body. The maximum allowed excise tax is five percent of the “average market rate,” which is determined by the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Linke then said that Grand County must feel the opposite way since towns have annexed property in order to keep dispensaries out. In December of 2014 the Town of Granby unanimously approved an emergency annexation of property on U.S. Highway 40 to prevent a retail marijuana store from opening. Linke also said he would like to have some discussion about what emergency annexation looks like.
“I think it’s important to remind people that when marijuana passed, the support on the voting record was even higher in Grand County than it was statewide,” Linke said.
All Commissioners agree
Commissioner Kris Manguso agreed, but followed up by saying “The question to the voters was, do you want to allow it in the state of Colorado? And the voters said yes. Sometimes people don’t always translate that to their community and I think we have seen that. I am okay with taking a step back. I am very much in support of this [moratorium].
“I think there’s language within our ordinance [allowing marijuana], 14 and 14-1 that we need to review and make sure it is really inline with what the citizens of Grand County want,” Linke stated.
Tollet agreed referencing her worries with the verbiage in the ordinance. “The concerns I have about the language in the resolution are about who the interested parties are. What worried me was that there was an argument that a town could not be an interested party according to that resolution. That seemed wrong.
“Everything about it tells me that we should go back to the voters and ask the people if they want it in Grand County,” Manguso said.
The Commissioners pointed out there are currently no pending marijuana license applications in the county, but that if one comes through, before the adoption of the moratorium, it will have to be considered by the county because the state approved it. Any license that has already been approved will not change if the moratorium passes.
“It’s not a personal decision, it’s what’s right for Grand County, and it may be we’re just not sure what that is right now,” Manguso said.
Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene said there is one marijuana license that was been approved by the state of Colorado. The County may consider it for a full year after the state issues the license. Rosene pointed out that even if the moratorium passes, there is a chance the BOCC could still have a hearing regarding the license in spring or summer of 2017.
Fraser is the only town in Grand County that allows marijuana shops. All other towns have banned pot shops, and unincorporated Grand County is the only other place where dispensaries can exist. The moratorium would affect new marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Grand County and alterations to existing dispensaries in unincorporated Grand County.
The moratorium ordinance title reads as follows:
“An ordinance imposing a temporary moratorium on the Construction, alteration or use of any building, structure or properties for any activity that would require a license for marijuana-related activities licensed under Grand County Ordinance 14 and Grand County Ordinance 14-1, for a period of one year, excepting therefrom construction, alteration or use of any building, structure or properties for which license approval has been given by the State of Colorado or Grand County;
“And imposing a temporary moratorium on filing, processing, or accepting applications, consideration thereof, and issuance of new licenses or permits for any business that cultivates, processes, dispenses or sells medical or retail marijuana as regulated under Grand County Ordinance 14 and Grand County Ordinance 14-1, and imposing a temporary moratorium on applications for change of location or alteration of premises for existing licenses, for the period of one year, excepting, however, pending applications for new licenses, and applications for renewal of any licenses issued prior to the effective date of this moratorium shall be accepted, considered and acted upon.”
The full ordinance can be found on the Grand County website under the agenda for the Tuesday, October 25 BOCC meeting’s supporting documents.
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Winter Park could see marijuana dispensaries in town as early as 2022 after the town council approved retail and medical marijuana sales, as well as medical marijuana delivery services.