VAIL — Vail usually likes to lead, but when it comes to retail marijuana sales, the town seems content to wait and see what happens.
On Thuesday, the Vail Town Council had a fairly wide-ranging discussion that ended with an agreement to put another six-month extension on an existing moratorium on retail sales. This six months may be a little different than the current moratorium, which was imposed while state and county officials hammered out the legal framework for retail sales. Town officials over the next six months will be asked to research current regulations and how other communities are navigating the retail landscape.
“This is fairly complex,” council member Greg Moffet said. While the town can’t ban consumption of recreational marijuana, Moffet said there are several other issues that need careful study. And with Eagle County’s regulations about to take effect, Moffet said the town would be well served to see how those regulations play out.
“We’re going to have more information in the next few months about what’s working and what’s not,” council member Jenn Bruno said.
Council member Margaret Rogers has long been in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana — “People are going to smoke it,” she said.
Where to smoke
One of the potential problems the town faces is where exactly people are able to smoke. In a recent interview, Murphy Murri, the general manager of the Tree Line medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle-Vail, said she has already fielded numerous inquiries from visitors about where to buy the recreational stuff.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council member Dave Chapin, co-owner of Vendetta’s restaurant in Vail Village, said a lot of public education needs to take place about where visitors can — and can’t — light up.
“We need to be clear that marijuana’s legal in your own home, but not in public,” council member Dale Bugby said. “We’ve got to make sure the public understands it’s not legal in public ... we need to make clear it’s not a free for all.”
With or without retail sales, Vail officials are working on a plan to help tourists understand where they can smoke. To start, any place that bans cigarette smoking also bans pot smoking. That includes public buildings such as bars, restaurants and shops, as well as non-smoking hotel rooms and any rental property that bans smoking in the lease. Chapin recommended a marijuana companion to the town’s “safe bar” information campaign.
In addition, pot smoking is illegal in public — you can’t light up on the street, and lighting up in an alley behind a store will still result in a ticket. And since marijuana remains illegal on federal property, lighting up on a lift or the slopes isn’t allowed.
“There’s a real lack of education (in other states) about what we can do, and that’s who we’re catering to,” Vail Police Commander Craig Bettis said.
Bettis is opposed to allowing retail sales in Vail, saying he doesn’t see how that new business would be beneficial to the town.
In a phone interview after Tuesday’s meeting, town resident Michael Kurz agreed with Bettis’ position.
“Most of us in the economic development business lean toward Vail being family-friendly,” Kurz said, adding that he’s worried about Vail being a stop on a marijuana “tour.”
Kurz said he agreed with waiting to tackle the retail sales issue, but said it wouldn’t be wise to enact measures that might work in Breckenridge, Durango or other mountain towns.
Where to light up isn’t just a problem in Vail. Eagle County planner Scot Hunn said the county’s marijuana regulations are leaning toward banning “social clubs” — which would provide a place for visitors to light up if they can’t smoke in their rooms — at least for now.
Hunn said most of the conditions of Colorado’s tobacco smoking laws apply to marijuana. Other than that, though, there isn’t much legal guidance for marijuana smoking, he said.
On the other hand, it is legal for adults in Colorado to possess and use small amounts of marijuana.
“It’s a state law; it’s allowed,” Chapin said. “But there are a lot of nuisance issues, a lot of family value issues ... I’m going to need a lot more information before I can vote on this.”