County commissioners weigh ban on sales of recreational pot

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By Ramsey Scott

The Jeffco county commissioners soon will vote on whether to ban marijuana shops in unincorporated areas of the county.

The proposed ordinance would ban retail marijuana shops, grow operations for retail sales, and any marijuana packaging or testing facility. The ordinance, if passed, would expire on Feb. 1, 2015, unless the commissioners voted to extend it.

Amendment 64, which officially took effect Jan. 1, makes it legal for adults in Colorado to possess less than an ounce of marijuana and regulates pot in ways similar to how alcohol use is governed. The amendment also allows counties and cities to opt out of retail sales and grow operations.

During discussions earlier this year about how Jeffco should approach Amendment 64, many in county government expressed their opposition to allowing retail marijuana sales.

“I think as a county we’d be derelict to adopt a policy that says we’re going to opt in,” Jeffco Assessor Jim Everson said during a February meeting of county heads of government. “It seems to me that the safe harbor for any local right now is to pass an ordinance prohibiting the commercial uses and deal with the individual uses.”

Commissioners Faye Griffin and Don Rosier have expressed opposition to Amendment 64 during earlier discussions. The commissioners are set to hear a presentation from county staff and vote on the ban during the commissioners’ June 18 public hearing.

If the commissioners approve the ordinance, Jeffco would join other entities such as Douglas County, El Paso County and Littleton that have passed a form of moratorium or ordinance banning retail marijuana sales.

Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law six bills regulating recreational marijuana, including rules for retail sales and setting limits for how much THC, the active chemical in marijuana, is allowed in a driver’s bloodstream. Along with those laws, Hickenlooper also approved a bill that is proposing a 25 percent tax on retail marijuana sales. That tax would have to be approved by Colorado voters in November’s election.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 last November, after endorsing a measure several years before that allowed sales and cultivation of medical marijuana.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.