Town of Vail says it is still studying retail pot
March 19, 2014
VAIL — You can buy recreational marijuana in Breckenridge, Telluride and Aspen. You'll have to bring your own to Vail for some time to come.
The Vail Town Council won't even consider proposals for retail marijuana operations until July. But town officials want to understand more about retail pot sales before either considering operations, extending the current moratorium or enacting an outright ban. The town's community development department has already been working to lay out a number of questions for the council, including:
• What kind of business regulations, if any, are needed?
• Whether or not to allow growing and product manufacturing along with retail.
• Whether to establish licensing above and beyond what's required by the state.
To answer those questions, community development department director George Ruther recommended creating a "recreational marijuana working group," with members from the town and its advisory councils, local chambers of commerce, law enforcement and Vail Valley Medical Center. That group, made up of 10 or 12 people, would meet just a few times before making recommendations to the council.
A group from the state's Cannabis Business Alliance also offered advice. Alliance director Meg Collins told the council the alliance had provided advice to the city of Denver as it drafted marijuana regulations and is now advising the city of Aurora.
Collins said her group doesn't advocate for retail marijuana but instead is a resource to provide information.
"Whatever your decision is, you need to consider whether resorts face different challenges," Collins said, adding that Vail needs to consider the financial impacts of retail marijuana and how such businesses might affect the resort's brand image.
Council member Greg Moffet asked the group from the alliance whether any communities have started working on "on-premise" operations, which would be similar to a bar.
Porter Wharton, of the alliance, said there's some "ambiguity" in the state regulations, but those operations would require separate entrances and street addresses from a retail shop. At the moment, Pueblo is looking into "on-premise" operations and Nederland has one.
"This is something that's peculiar to mountain communities," Wharton said, adding that in most communities, retail customers buy their weed then go home, or someplace like it. In resort towns, visitors can't smoke in their rooms, on the street or on the mountain — where possession and consumption remain federal crimes.
Moffet said he'd be interested in exploring that idea, while still keeping a close eye on the "nuisance" elements — people smoking in rooms or on balconies, as well as the smells involved in grow operations.
COUNCIL WANTS TO KNOW MORE
Council members in general said they want to know more before starting down a road that might lead to retail pot in town.
"I'm neutral at this point," council member Margaret Rogers said, adding that if the town does license retail operations, she wants licensing more strict than that required by the state. She also said she wants to see how retail sales are working elsewhere.
But, she added, voters in Colorado, and in Vail, voted in favor of legalizing recreational possession and sale of marijuana.
"The voters told us strongly they wanted it," Rogers said. "It's not my position to be a mother and say, 'Oh no you can't.'"
While most council members said they wanted to know more, Mayor Andy Daly said his strong preference is to not allow retail sales in town.
"I really look to what our guests are thinking," Daly said. "Anecdotally, I've been approached by numerous homeowners — especially from Mexico — and they're really hoping Vail doesn't agree to retail marijuana."
Council member Ludwig Kurz also said his personal preference would be a ban. But, he said, "I'll try not to let that get in the way of my decision-making process."