VAIL — Retail marijuana sales have been legal in Colorado since Jan. 1. But Vail town leaders still have more questions than answers as they ponder whether to follow the state’s other ski towns into the world of pot shops.
The Vail Town Council last year enacted a temporary moratorium on applications for pot shops, deciding instead to wait and see how the business developed elsewhere in the state. But the Town Council will apparently decide whether or not to allow the shops by the time the moratorium’s latest extension expires Jan. 31.
Council members have expressed various opinions on retail pot, from an interest in banning it — as the town is authorized to do under the terms of Amendment 64, the state constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana — to cautious support. Others want “more information” before making a decision.
Information is the job of the town’s Marijuana Working Group. That group, made up of business people as well as representatives from law enforcement and health care, isn’t supposed to make a recommendation based on just three meetings. Instead, the group will present what it’s learned and ask town officials to answer a growing list of questions.
Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther has been leading the sessions. For the most part, the sessions so far have been about providing information, from what’s been happening in Breckenridge to how unincorporated Eagle County’s retail pot landscape evolved.
But, after a couple of lunches and a lot of information, Ruther told the group it was time to get to work — specifically, generating questions for staff and the council to answer before making a decision. The questions came quickly and soon added to a list of 20-plus questions Ruther brought with him to Wednesday’s meeting at the Vail Public Library.
Group member Matt Morgan asked what may be a crucial question: “If 75 percent of Vail residents voted for (the amendment), how do you reconcile not allowing it?”
LIMITS ON LOCATION
But just allowing retail pot sales isn’t as easy as it sounds. Despite the overwhelming vote in 2012 to approve Amendment 64, the fact is there are precious few places to light up in Vail.
Amendment 64 bans marijuana consumption in public. The state’s “clean air act” also bans smoking in most public places, including most hotel rooms. Federal law still prohibits marijuana possession or use, which means it’s illegal to light up on Vail Mountain — which sits on U.S. Forest Service property.
All of those things mean that while an adult can have marijuana in Vail, it’s hard to find a place to smoke the stuff.
That led group member Barry Davis to ask if Vail could perhaps allow just edible cannabis products. That’s a question for the staff to answer. Ruther said it’s also unclear if the increasingly popular “vaporizer” pens, which use a cannabis concentrate, fit the definition of “smoking.”
IMPACT ON LODGES
Then there’s the impact on lodges. Some hoteliers have already evicted guests for smoking in non-smoking rooms. Group member Chris Romer said the consequences of any decision Vail makes will be borne in large part by property managers and others.
Then there’s the matter of just how much tax revenue marijuana sales could bring. Breckenridge’s retail marijuana taxes fund a police officer whose sole job is marijuana enforcement and education. Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy cautioned that pot revenue will come with costs, and those need to be considered.
On the other hand, Morgan noted there will be retail stores soon in Eagle-Vail.
“We’re going to get (marijuana in town) anyway,” Morgan said. “If we’re going to pay for the costs, why not get a bite of the (revenue) apple?”
“If 75 percent of Vail residents voted for (the amendment), how do you reconcile not allowing it?”
Marijuana Working Group member