Recreational marijuana sales have been allowed in Colorado for nine days, but hold on to your wallets — the product is not available to purchase for recreational use in Archuleta County.
Following a timeline that would see a recreational marijuana ordinance put into effect in May (assuming the Board of County Commissioners approves it), the BoCC heard a report Tuesday about the issues that must be considered in drafting and enacting a recreational marijuana ordinance.
County attorney Todd Starr gave the report to commissioners Clifford Lucero and Steve Wadley (commissioner Michael Whiting was out of town).
In his report, Starr told the commissioners that the Retail Marijuana Steering Committee comprises Starr; Rich Valdez, undersheriff; Sherrie Vick, planning technician; John Ruyle, building official; Annette DeGraaf, administrative assistant; and Tonya McCann, paralegal.
That group, Starr said, has spoken with other places around the state to determine what issues are being faced in regards to implementing recreational retail sales following the passage of Amendment 64 by Colorado voters.
Starr then broke down the potential issues that were gathered by the department they would fall under.
Those issues, as said by Starr, are:
• Regulation on grow facilities.
In addition to concerns about regulations, Starr noted that district attorneys throughout the state are making marijuana a low priority.
Starr said one issue the group collected was that “undesirables,” such as the unemployed, would be attracted to the community and that, as a result, there could be more crime and more of a demand on social services.
• Water well rights.
Starr noted that domestic water cannot be used for agricultural purposes.
• Medical calls.
Starr mentioned concerns over pesticides and fertilizers used on marijuana plants in some places that have made end-users of the product ill.
Later, Starr told the commissioners of a study completed by National Jewish, a hospital in Denver, that studies over 100 indoor grow operations and discovered over 25 different kinds of toxic molds and mold spores.
That study concluded that grow facilities should be treated like meth labs and other biohazards.
• Law enforcement.
Starr said every county the steering committee spoke with cited trouble with enforcing laws.
• Remediation of facilities formerly used for marijuana operations.
• Air and waste quality.
Starr said other locations have had issues with air quality near grow and sale facilities for both medical and retail marijuana.
Starr also noted there were concerns about the proper disposal of waste from the facilities.
Later, Lucero noted that special conditions for hazardous waste exist and would have to be met for waste with remnants of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Related, but mentioned later, was odor control.
• Permit transparency.
Starr said other locations reported difficulty with knowing if a building was being used as permitted.
• Determining standards.
While building and fire codes exist for a variety of specific industries, there is no such code for the marijuana industry, Starr said, meaning the county would have to determine what codes apply.
• Fire prevention and suppression.
• Lodging facilities allowing or disallowing smoking of marijuana.
Following informing the commissioners of the list of concerns, Starr said the steering committee will be holding two upcoming work sessions in January with a variety of entities that would potentially be affected by county legislation allowing recreational marijuana (such as health and water), as well as representatives of the two licensed medical marijuana operations in the county.
Starr said he will begin to draft the ordinance.
According to the county’s timeline, an ordinance is expected to be up for adoption in April. Adoption of any ordinance allowing recreational marijuana and detailing requirements for operation would be subject to two public hearings.
Winding down his report, Starr spoke of the potential for a substantial financial impact on Archuleta County by allowing retail marijuana, but said that any regulations need to be encompassing and protect the health, safety and welfare of county citizens and honor community support expressed by voting in favor of Amendment 64.
Wadley said he hopes regulations won’t be, “overly onerous.”
He also noted that perhaps the regulations should include a provision that if a location has been used for marijuana operations in the past, it be disclosed to future tenants.
The Town of Pagosa Springs allows neither medical marijuana operations nor recreational marijuana operations within town boundaries.
While Amendment 64 makes pot much more accessible and public, several laws still apply, including the following.
In Colorado, adults 21 and over are allowed to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana.
Regardless of the retail sale of marijuana, the product cannot be smoked in public and driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, is illegal.