I attended the Eagle County Planning Commission meeting to protest the land use regulation that will allow four new retail marijuana establishments to open in unincorporated Eagle County after Jan 1. These new businesses will be allowed to open in Eagle-Vail, Edwards, El Jebel, and Dotsero within 200 feet of our schools, parks, and residences with added “marijuana social clubs.” The meeting opened with the county attorney telling the members they could only rule on zoning and not make any value judgments on whether to allow retail marijuana. The Board of Commissioners would make that decision on Oct 29.
The impact of an estimated 300,000 marijuana smoking tourists skiing this winter was also discussed — 2,000 skiers per day. After it was realized there was no legal place to smoke marijuana in the county, the commission approved “marijuana social clubs” to be added as another new business. The problem with this new approach is that Vail and Avon town councils have not approved marijuana so the tourists will have to drive to Eagle-Vail or Edwards to legally smoke their marijuana at a social club not yet opened. Many of these tourists do not speak fluent English. Will they be aware of our state’s new “Marijuana Driving Open Container Law “ or our “DUID” 5 nanogram maximum limit of marijuana THC in one’s body? Will tourists know it is a federal Schedule I dangerous illegal substance when they go through TSA screening at our airports? I believe our summer and winter tourist industry is about to change in an unsafe and objectionable direction as most of us did not move to this valley to support a marijuana industry.
At the meeting, everyone agreed that the odor from the new cultivation facilities growing over 3,000 pot plants was just too much for the towns to bear, so they were zoned out to county agricultural land. This means that most new retail pot stores opening, required by state law to grow 70 percent of their pot for sale, will lease or buy agricultural land throughout the county and build huge pot greenhouses. Discussion was also held on the distance of 200 feet of new retail pot stores from schools, parks and residences, but commissioners overlooked the state and federal rule of 1000 feet and chose 200 feet to give the pot shops the advantage to locate in our neighborhoods. They also zoned in a location 300 feet from Battle Mountain High School in Edwards. The county attorney told them if they chose 500 feet or 1000 feet that would zone the new pot businesses out of our towns and prevent the new found revenue from coming to our county.
If the November 2013 ballot Proposition AA on adding the 15 percent excise and 10 percent sales taxes does not pass, then the county land use regulation designed to produce tons of revenue would get no state revenue. Further, the state would then be forced to fund retail pot out of our state general fund. It is obvious the Board of Commissioners needs to delay their decision until after the November vote. Once this land use regulation is approved on Oct. 29, and that is a given, state applications cannot be denied for these new pot businesses by our county government.
“Show me the money” is the state and county approach to adding retail pot establishments to our neighborhoods. Our families’ and kids’ safety and health have not been a consideration. The Board of Commissioners is putting the pot industry’s interests ahead of Eagle County residents and businesses. After Oct. 29, it will be too late for Eagle County, and the new world of “marijuana Rocky Mountain high” will prevail.
If residents do not like these new pot businesses coming soon to your lives, your last chance to stop this dumb idea will be on Oct. 29 at the 10 am Board of Commissioners meeting and also on Nov. 5 when you vote “no” on Proposition AA on pot taxes.