What’s next for pot shops in Grand County? | SkyHiNews.com

What’s next for pot shops in Grand County?

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado

Grand County and Fraser voters made way for medical marijuana centers on Nov. 2.

It may not be a surprise, considering that in 2000 when statewide Amendment 20 was proposing medical marijuana use in the state, Grand County voters passed it by a 22 percent margin.

Despite a much tighter margin this go around, the message has been sent that a majority of Grand County residents wouldn’t mind having the enterprises conducting business in the unincorporated county. Yet the question remains, where?

Seeing how Denver ended up with more pot storefronts than Starbucks, some citizens may fear that green crosses will pop up everywhere before provisional ballots are even counted.

First, a moratorium on medical pot facilities is still in place through the rest of 2010. That gives staff and elected officials a little time to decide how to treat these facilities.

Also, the state has dictated that new medical marijuana business licenses won’t go into effect until July 1 of 2011, which allows even more time.

Before the question to allow dispensaries and marijuana cultivation was even put on the ballot, the county planning department had completed preliminary research as to how to regulate such facilities through its zoning regulations. The county considered defining through the process of public meetings what county zone the centers would fall under, what setbacks would be required and whether they would be treated like special use permits – meaning every time one is proposed, neighbors would weigh in much like they do for liquor applications.

When Grand County planning staffers ran a possible scenario of how pot shops could be restricted in the county, they limited them to business zones with proposed setbacks of 1,000 feet from any churches or schools.

With those stricter zoning regulations, the total available lots for pot enterprise ended up at less than 25 properties county-wide and disqualified them as “home businesses,” according to County Planning Director Kris Manguso.

Adding a special-use permit requirement – inviting neighbors to provide input on conditions of the facility and whether a facility is appropriate in a certain place – might further limit the availability of marijuana businesses, she said.

Facilities might also be subject to business licensing, scrutiny over signage and security measures.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers provided an opinion last year that medical marijuana products, a “Schedule 1” controlled substance, are taxable and dispensed without a prescription, which would otherwise render them exempt from taxation.

Yet unlike towns that asked voters if a 5-percent added tax should be applied to marijuana products, the county believes it does not have the statutory authority to add an extra tax on pot products, according to Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola.

In Fraser – which is the only town in Grand County where voters agreed to allow medical marijuana “centers, cultivation operations, and infused products manufacturers” – medical pot products would have a 12.9 percent tax rate, due to 2A; while in unincorporated Grand County, those same products would likely have a much lower 3.9 percent sales tax.

This hasn’t yet discouraged some who endeavor to carry a retail supply of stash.

In the time since the election, Fraser has fielded phone calls from potential applicants, according to Fraser Manager Jeff Durbin.

A few “people in the community are excited about the business opportunity,” he said.

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