Although a moratorium on pot shops Montrose County commissioners passed on Monday is for six months, there’s no mistake to be made: The goal is to “prevent” marijuana retail centers from opening here.
“I’m looking for a way we can prevent it from happening,” said Commissioner Gary Ellis, during discussions. “We don’t need this nonsense.”
The recently passed Amendment 64 allows people 21 and older to legally use and possess up to an ounce of marijuana or a set quantity of plants.
The amendment also allows retail pot centers and marijuana manufacturing businesses, but local governments can ban them. The amendment calls upon the Legislature to adopt regulations for such businesses, and, according to proponents, to set an excise tax rate for voters to approve.
Commissioners on Monday passed a six-month moratorium on commercial growing and dispensing of marijuana, with an option to renew the moratorium for another six months.
“Basically, this is reaction to the passage of Amendment 64,” said County Attorney Bob Hill.
The county is hopeful initial state guidelines could be in place by July 2013.
No later than 45 days prior to the moratorium’s June 3, 2013 expiration, staffers are to provide the county with information about state regulations, federal response to the amendment, and zoning issues that might be pertinent to pot shops.
“I can almost assure that no guidelines will be in place by July 2013,” said Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap. “They’re pushing as hard as they can to get something enacted.” The process is slow and cumbersome though, he said.
For now, law enforcement has zero guidance on how to enforce the amendment’s provisions. “I mean, there is nothing at this point,” Dunlap said.
There is to be a conference call later this week among law enforcement agency leaders, the Colorado Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney General concerning Amendment 64, Dunlap said.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, Commissioner David White noted, and asked Dunlap whether deputies would return pot when users are arrested.
“We don’t enforce federal law,” Dunlap said. His agency will focus on underage use and consumption, as well as driving under the influence of pot (or other drugs). Underage usage remains illegal under Amendment 64, as does driving while under the influence of marijuana.
But as far as a baseline for determining marijuana intoxication, again, “We have nothing,” the sheriff said.
Amendment 64 passed comfortably statewide, but not in Montrose County. Both commissioners and Montrose City councilors have stated this as a reason to ban marijuana retailing here.
Voters were loud and clear, said Dunlap. “We’re left with the dilemma as to how we deal with it.”
The county’s moratorium passed unanimously. The city meets tonight to further discuss its moratorium.