Eagle ponders retail marijuana regs, election

Tuesday night the Eagle Town Board updated the community’s criminal code to reflect the changes wrought by Colorado’s Amendment 64 marijuana rules and debated bringing a new tax on marijuana sales to the voters.

But, as town board members noted, Eagle officials haven’t yet made a formal decision regarding the future of retail marijuana operations in town.

A formal decision regarding whether or not Eagle will allow retail marijuana operations has been scheduled for Sept. 10. An ordinance that would provide a set of administrative guidelines for retail operations will be before the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission Sept. 2 and before the town board on Sept. 24.

In the meantime the town is facing a Sept. 6 deadline to present a ballot question to the county in preparation for the November general election. If retail marijuana is approved in Eagle, the town board has expressed interest in placing an additional tax on weed transactions. That action would have to go to the voters.

Eagle Town Attorney Ed Sands presented information regarding marijuana tax options.

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“It is my legal opinion that you cannot impose a sales tax because Eagle is not a home rule town,” said Sands. “It is my advice that you would be in legal jeopardy if you tried to do the same thing as Denver or Boulder.”

This week the Denver City Council approved a ballot question seeking a 3.5 percent sales tax on marijuana transactions. Denver is a home rule city.

Because Eagle is a statutory town, it must follow different rules and does not have the ability to impose the additional sales tax. However, Sands noted there are at least two other options — an occupation tax or an additional operations fee.

Eagle already imposes a flat $4 per room, per night lodging occupation tax and the legality of that fee has been upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court. In the case of retail marijuana, the town could charge a flat, per transaction fee. Town board members gravitated to that option.

Eagle Mayor Yuri Kostick proposed a $5 per retail marijuana transaction fee. He noted the money does not have to be earmarked for a specific purpose and can go to the town’s general fund. In a straw poll, a majority of the board members present supported Kostick’s suggestion. Sands will take that figure and apply it to a ballot question. Because of Colorado’s strict TABOR rules, ballot question language is standardized and the board will have to convene a special meeting next week to approve the issue.

Weed rules

In a separate discussion, the board approved an ordinance that updates the Eagle criminal code to bring it into compliance with Amendment 64.

Sands noted the new rules prohibit “open and public” consumption of marijuana and the establishment of private marijuana clubs.

“The ordinance is pretty detailed and it follows state law,” said Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney.

The board unanimously passed the marijuana code revisions.

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