VAIL — The Vail Town Council voted unanimously to extend its temporary ban on retail marijuana for another year in order to gather more information and observe other towns, such as Aspen, that have legalized retail sales.
The town had set a self-imposed July 31 deadline to make a decision on retail sales, but council members said the past year has raised too many questions with not enough time to answer all of them.
“I hate putting off decisions, but this is a new thing for our state,” said council member Dave Chapin. “However, we do need to make a decision within a year. Maybe we should also throw the question out there to people who come here to visit and see what they think.”
More time needed
Colorado Constitutional Amendment 64 legalized the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana in Colorado. The legislation grants local governments the authority to regulate the operations of recreational marijuana establishments, including enacting prohibition, if desired. It passed in Vail with 75 percent in favor.
Confusingly enough, a recent community survey showed that while the majority of residents may have voted for Amendment 64, much fewer residents are in favor of allowing retail pot shops in Vail.
The survey by RRC Associates showed that when asked if they would be in favor of a retail marijuana store in Vail, 31 percent said “yes,” 57 percent said “no” and 13 percent were “unsure.”
Earlier this year, the town of Vail formed a Recreational Marijuana Working Group to identify a list of questions and issues that the town council should consider prior to adopting a marijuana policy. The group, after two meetings that also drew the attention and attendance of many locals, prepared a list of nearly 60 questions surrounding the topic.
“We want to answer these questions, but I don’t think we can possibly do justice to either side of the debate with the time we have before the ban expires,” said council member Margaret Rogers. “We don’t have to rush into this by any means.”
Council members particularly liked the idea of observing other areas that have allowed retail sales during the next year. Aspen, Summit County and Eagle County all either currently have or soon will have retail marijuana shops.
“It doesn’t look like there are any problems so far, but it’s so new, and we just don’t know yet,” said Rogers.
Resident weigh in
The community survey, while it presented confusing numbers for officials, did show a strong divide in opinion between age groups, and second homeowners and full-time residents.
For the question of allowing a retail pot shop in Vail, if the answers were divided between age groups, those who were in their 30s or younger were overwhelmingly in favor, while those 65 and older were staunchly against.
One Eagle County resident, Barbara Allen, said that the town would not be in line with its support of health and wellness if it allowed retail marijuana.
“You either support wellness or don’t. And supporting marijuana is not,” she said. “My other issue is safety and being family friendly. If other ski areas adopt this but Vail doesn’t, those people will come here and Vail can bill itself as family friendly.”
Retail marijuana in Eagle County
Outside of Vail, eight retail licenses are currently being considered in Eagle County. Of those, five are in Eagle-Vail’s commercial area, one of the few areas with the proper zoning and setbacks in the county.
County Manager Keith Montag said that some anecdotal evidence and research is showing that counties that have allowed retail marijuana aren’t necessarily seeing the problems they expected.
“We were at a counties conference, and it seems like from people we’ve talked to, especially over at Summit County, they’re not seeing the problems we’ve debated about,” said Montag.
County officials said that they’ve even seen some studies that indicate legalizing marijuana might actually have positive effects.
One study showed that the number of vehicle fatalities and underage use had actually gone down in areas that legalized marijuana, suggesting that people might be substituting marijuana for alcohol or that people were choosing to stay at home and use marijuana instead of going out.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.