Avon steps back from retail marijuana sales

AVON — Avon became the latest town to take a wait-and-see approach to banning retail pot shops for at least a year.

The Avon Town Council gave the first of two approvals necessary to ban retail marijuana sales until at least September 2014.

The next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27, when the Town Council will hear from the public and vote again whether or not to prohibit marijuana sales until next autumn.

If the council votes to approve it a second time, then there’s a 30-day waiting period until the moratorium would go into effect, according to Avon’s town charter.

The council’s first vote approved the moratorium by a 6-1 vote.

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The moratorium isn’t much of a stretch for Avon. The town doesn’t allow medical marijuana shops either. It banned them in 2010.

Monitoring other parts of state

Council members say they want to watch what happens in other parts of the state and the federal government.

Unincorporated Eagle County, on the other hand, is home to a handful of medical marijuana stores. When pot becomes legal on Jan. 1, retail pot shops in Eagle County will have to abide by most of the same rules as medical marijuana stores. Among them, pot shops have to be at least 200 feet from homes, schools, churches, parks, playgrounds and childcare facilities, according to Scott Hunn, a senior planner with Eagle County’s community development department.

Mesa County doesn’t see it that way. At an Aug. 9 meeting, the Mesa County commissioners banned retail pot sales in their county’s unincorporated areas — areas that aren’t inside any city limits.

Mesa County’s commissioners unanimously banned pot retail shops, commercial cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and related land uses.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, legalizing recreational marijuana. It also gave local governments the ability to either opt out of the marijuana business or adopt an ordinance placing a moratorium on the matter until a final decision is made.

The debate over Amendment 64 was loud and contentious. Advocates extolled the virtues of marijuana’s purported healing powers, while opponents insisted marijuana has no redeeming value and would cause much more trouble than it’s worth.

Potential Tax revenue

Then there’s the potential tax revenue. In November’s general election, Colorado voters will decide whether to slap a tax up to 25 percent on marijuana sales.

Tax revenue estimates vary widely.

The Medical Marijuana Business Daily estimates that annual sales will total around $500 million the first year, and could hit $1 billion a few years down the road.

Colorado State University’s report estimates retail sales via state-licensed shops at $605 million annually.

Retail pot sales are estimated at $300 million a year by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

A study by Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Traffic Area says time will tell.

“The next two to four years should help determine which side is most accurate,” the study said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail

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