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BoCC extends marijuana moratorium

The future of medical marijuana dispensaries in Archuleta County will continue in limbo until Aug. 31, following the extension of the moratorium on dispensaries by unanimous vote of the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners at a March 16 meeting.

“We’re asking you to extend that moratorium consistent with the actions of the Town of Pagosa,” said Todd Starr, county attorney, in presenting the recommendation to the BoCC.

“The reason for that is that any new laws that are passed (by the state Legislature) ... take effect July 1 and then, interestingly, the Department of Revenue is the department that was charged with writing the regulations,” Starr explained, adding that he anticipated the regulations would be complete around Aug. 1.

The August moratorium extension would give the county staff time to “respond and say, ‘OK, here’s what we need to have in place,’” Starr said.

Commissioner John Ranson asked if the one or two dispensaries that have previously been grandfathered in under the moratoriums would continue to operate, to which Starr responded, “There’s, that I’m aware of, one grandfathered establishment. There may be another, but there’s not been a sufficient showing of evidence” to determine if they, in fact, should be grandfathered in.

Starr also added that the one certain legal establishment is currently located in a residential area, but said he anticipated cooperation by both the county and the business owner in moving it out of that area. Starr said numerous reports of incidents around the state clearly show that dispensaries in residential areas are unsafe.

The original staff recommendation provided by Starr called for an extension through Aug. 15, despite a proposed Aug. 31 moratorium expiration by the Town of Pagosa Springs Town Council.

The Town Council unanimously passed the first reading of Ordinance 752 (extending the town’s moratorium through Aug. 31) at their Feb. 18 meeting. A second reading is scheduled for March 25.

Current moratoriums by the county and town were set to expire March 30 and 31, respectively.

Based on the news of the town’s Aug. 31 proposed expiration date, Commissioner Bob Moomaw asked, “Is there any reason we shouldn’t do the same, just kind of be the same?”

“I think there’s an advantage to be had in being consistent with the town,” Starr said. “We can always end the moratorium early or we can extend it again, as long as we meet the legal criteria, which we do.”

Thus, the date was changed to Aug. 31.

The county had originally passed a 60-day moratorium on new dispensaries in September, with an expiration date of Nov. 29. After statements from the Colorado Attorney General and the news that multiple state legislators publicly announced plans to introduce legislation that would affect the dispensation of medical marijuana, the BoCC voted Nov. 19 to extend the moratorium, with an expiration date of March 30.

Keeping a united front on the subject at the time, the Town of Pagosa Springs Town Council also extended its moratorium in the fall, with a scheduled expiration date one day after the county’s — March 31.