Marijuana sales prohibited in town


Staff Writer

Marijuana establishments will be prohibited in the town of Pagosa Springs upon the second reading of an ordinance passed by a 5-2 vote at the April 18 town council meeting.

Because of an earlier ordinance, passed in September of 2012, a moratorium on medical marijuana businesses was extended until July 2013. This was a continuation of a moratorium in place since 2010 that basically instructs the town’s planning department to not issue a business license to anyone who wants to operate a medical marijuana company inside the town’s boundary.

The ordinance under consideration last week would expand the moratorium to include recreational marijuana establishments and would remove the expiration date, effectively extending the ban indefinitely.

Ordinance 788 is, “An ordinance of the Town of Pagosa Springs amending Chapter 6 of the Pagosa Springs Municipal Code by the addition thereto of a new Article 5 prohibiting the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana, including medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation operations and medical marijuana-infused products manufacturing, and a new Article 6 prohibiting the operation of marijuana clubs, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail marijuana stores.”

On Nov 6, 2012, the voters of the state of Colorado approved Amendment 64, which requires the town to allow the use and possession of one ounce of marijuana or less and cultivation of up to six plants by adults 21 years of age or older, and allows the town to authorize or prohibit the operation of marijuana establishments.

The Nov. 6 vote in Archuleta County followed similar lines as the state vote — 55 percent in favor of legalization and 45 percent against.

Once Ordinance 788 passes the second reading, then Section 6.6.3 of the town’s municipal code will read, “A. It is unlawful for any person to operate, cause to be operated, or permit to be operated, any marijuana establishment or marijuana club within the town, and all such uses are herby prohibited in any location within the town.

“B. Marijuana establishments and marijuana clubs may not be operated as a primary land use, or as an incidental activity to another lawful land use, or as a home occupation.”

In other words, not only will stores that specialize in the sale of marijuana be prohibited, but stores that are already established — such as liquor stores — will not be allowed to carry marijuana products.

Section 6.5.3 will place a similar permanent ban on medical marijuana businesses.

Last month, town council passed Ordinance 787, legalizing personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as marijuana accessories, for individuals 21 years old or over, conceding there was nothing that could be done on that front.

“Prohibitions or local restrictions must be in place no later than Oct. 1,” Police Chief William Rockensock asserted during his presentation to town council, “Which is when marijuana businesses can begin to operate.”

Part of Ordinance 788 states, “Town council has carefully considered the provisions of Article XVIII, section 16 of the Colorado Constitution, and the impact of the operation of marijuana establishments on the health, safety and welfare of the Town and the inhabitants thereof, and has determined, as an exercise of its local land use authority and authority under Amendment 64, that such marijuana establishments shall not be located within the corporate limits of the town.”

However, certain members of town council seemed to disagree with the claim that the issue has already been fully and carefully considered.

“I think with the time we still have before Oct. 1,” council member Clint Alley argued, “it would be nice to just look at some of the other options we might have. I guess, with the people voting the way they have, we are going to have to address this in some fashion and at some point, rather than just doing what we are doing today and putting in a ban on these establishments.”

Council member Kathie Lattin interjected, “There really isn’t any place within the town boundaries that is zoned industrial and will allow anything like this.”

“My only advice as your chief of police,” Rockensock asserted, “is that we follow clearly established criminal laws prohibiting marijuana. That’s my stance.”

“I guess I am also wondering why we are taking this step now,” council member David Schanzenbaker commented, “since the state is working on establishing regulations to deal with the recent passage of the amendment. I didn’t really get a good feeling from the legal memo from our town attorney. Bob Cole, on why we should act now rather than later. I’m pretty sure that any retail sales couldn’t happen until Jan. 1; licenses can be applied for after Oct. 1, but they won’t be issued by the state until after Jan. 1.”

“By what rules do we operate if we do allow something to open?” council member Darrel Cotton asked. “The state says you can make more stringent laws, but you have to at least meet the state standards, whatever they may be.”

“It’s basically, we wait on the state and we follow the state’s rules,” Rockensock confirmed, “you enact your own rules regarding these, or we prohibit them. Those are the options allowed by Amendment 64. Each option has pitfalls.”

While Cotton affirmed that he had no problem approving Ordinance 788 now rather than later, thereby banning marijuana establishments within town limits, when mayor Ross Aragon called for a vote, Alley and Schanzenbaker both voted, “No.”