Eagle County green-lights retail marijuana
EAGLE — Retail marijuana businesses will be allowed in unincorporated areas of Eagle County starting Jan. 1.
After another three hours of debate Monday — this time only among themselves, with no public comment — commissioners approved a resolution 2 to 1, with Commissioner Sara Fisher opposed and Commissioners Jill Ryan and Kathy Chandler-Henry in favor.
“This isn’t because I’m against pot heads, pot users or pot anything — my concern is that people are trying to minimize the effects of marijuana, and we need to be careful about sending the wrong message to children,” Fisher said. “If this moves forward, let’s do it slowly.”
Commissioners passed a total of three resolutions, with the two subsequent resolutions passing unanimously.
The primary resolution allows retail marijuana stores in commercial general and commercial-limited zones as a use- by-right with the following conditions:
• Medical and retail stores will be able to exist in the same space.
• A 500-foot buffer from high schools is required (which effectively eliminates a potential location near Interstate 70 in Edwards).
• There will be a limit to the number of retail marijuana stores in unincorporated areas.
The second resolution commissioners approved allows cultivation, product manufacturing and testing of retail marijuana as a use-by-right in the commercial general and commercial-limited zones and allowed by special use permit in the resource, resource-limited and ag-residential zones.
The third motion amends previous regulations to state that no more than 18 marijuana plants will be allowed in a private residence where there are three adults 21 or older.
County staff was also directed to draft regulations defining social clubs for the commissioners to review at a later date. Fisher suggested banning them outright, but Chandler-Henry said she didn’t want to be so hasty.
“I don’t want to have unintended consequences down the road,” she said.
Cap on retail stores
There are currently four medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated Eagle County. It is anticipated that those stores will apply to sell retail pot as well.
Fisher proposed regulations that would have effectively limited the number of retail shops to the number of existing medical businesses, but Ryan and Chandler-Henry did not agree with that idea.
“It’s an odd position as an elected official to have to regulate the free market,” Chandler-Henry said. “It needs to be regulated, but I also don’t want to limit it to the few people who are already in business.”
The commissioners agreed that it would be safer to start with some limit to the number of businesses and ease up on those regulations later than to try and reverse a large influx of retail pot shops.
Ryan proposed a limit of eight retail shops, but wanted a way to ensure all eight wouldn’t end up in the same area.
Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu recommended the commissioners let staff draft licensing rules that will be reviewed for approval before the end of the year.
“Limiting this by licensing rather than zoning will make it easier to change later,” Treu said.
Chandler-Henry and Ryan said recreational marijuana has been approved among Eagle County voters by consistently strong margins, and they felt it was their duty to reflect that will.
“It was voted for across Eagle County, and we know prohibition doesn’t work,” Chandler-Henry said. “We need to respect the free market.”
Chandler-Henry added that she would like to see a transaction fee that would go directly to the county and be used for education. Treu said that could be something to bring before the voters at a later date.
“Yes, people voted for it, but I’d like us to slow down,” Fisher said. “The black market will continue to exist, and I’m concerned about not being able to turn back the clock if we mess up.”