Reefer retail won’t change soon for Eagle County dispensaries | VailDaily.com

Reefer retail won’t change soon for Eagle County dispensaries

It was a long, strange trip through ski season for local marijuana dispensaries.

After Colorado voters handily passed Amendment 64, visitors strolled in from around the United States and the world trying to buy marijuana.

And even though Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three bills Monday creating the framework for the state's retail marijuana industry, the marijuana business in Eagle County won't change much in the near future.

In Eagle County, Amendment 64 passed by a 2-1 margin.

For at least the next two months, Eagle County's medical marijuana businesses are likely to be the first retail marijuana businesses. For the first 60 days after the governor signed the bills, only medical marijuana businesses may apply for a retail license.

That's designed to help slow the anticipated flood of applications, said Bryan Treu, Eagle County's attorney.

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By the end of the summer the county will start accepting applications for commercial licenses, and commercial marijuana stores will start showing up around early January, Treu said. Until then, you'll have to buy marijuana the way you always have.

Medical to recreational

Treu said there's a lot to do, "but we'll be ready because we've already set the table with our medical marijuana regulations."

The county will deal with it largely through changing zoning from "medical marijuana" to "marijuana."

That means the same restrictions that limit where you can sell medical marijuana will also dictate where you can put a commercial marijuana store, Treu said.

Treu was appointed by the governor to a working group hammering out local control issues.

"There were a lot of unknowns that the people who wrote Amendment 64 hadn't thought through," Treu said.

Amendment 64 forced the state to have regulations in place by Oct. 1. If state lawmakers hadn't come up with anything, regulations would have been left to counties and towns — and they can still ban it. Douglas County has already said it's not allowing commercial stores.

Following the green

Colorado's new laws lay the framework for tax rates up to 30 percent. The money is to be shared with the public school capital construction fund and local governments.

The taxes are as follows:

• A wholesale tax can be up to 15 percent. The first $40 million goes to the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program, which funds public school building and renovation projects.

• A sales tax between 10 and 15 percent.

Because it's a tax, voters across the state must approve it this November.

The county gets 2.5 percent of that pie, but can charge an operating fee to cover regulating costs — to make sure the industry covers what it costs to regulate it.

For now, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana. So far, Colorado and Washington are the only states to legalize recreational marijuana.

Setting driving regulations

The bills also set limits for driving under the influence of marijuana — regulations pushed through by state house minority leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.

"Amendment 64 brings Colorado into new and foreign territory," Waller said. "Equipping law enforcement with the tools they need to ensure people make safe decisions behind the wheel is critical to maximizing public safety."

It's Waller's sixth attempt in the last three years to see DUI penalties enforced for drivers under the influence of drugs.

"Better late than never," Waller said, after finally seeing the policy become law.

The bills establish impaired-driver standards similar to blood alcohol limits for drunk drivers. A driver will be considered under the influence of marijuana if five or more nanograms of delta-9-THC is present in a milliliter of whole blood. Delta-9-THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that renders a driver impaired after consumption.

Stoned drivers have an option drunk drivers don't have. They get to argue in court that their tolerance for marijuana is high enough that they're not impaired at five nanongrams.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and rwyrick@vaildaily.com