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Carbondale OK’s pot licensing ordinance

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Carbondale OK’s pot licensing ordinance

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By Lynn Burton

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Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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Carbondale joins 10 other Colorado municipalities after trustees approved a retail marijuana licensing ordinance 5-0 on Tuesday night.

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Among other provisions, the ordinance allows for up to five retail marijuana establishments to open sometime after Jan. 1, 2014.

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After the meeting, trustee Frosty Merriott said the board’s vote reflects the will of Carbondale’s voters. “ … 71 percent voted for Amendment 64,” Merriott told The Sopris Sun.

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Colorado voters approved constitutional Amendment 64 last November, which authorizes municipalities and counties to pass ordinances to allow retail sales of marijuana, plus the cultivation, manufacturing of marijuana products (such as brownies) and testing of marijuana potency. Carbondale’s ordinance, which the trustees approved as an emergency ordinance and as such did not require a public hearing, allows for all four marijuana-related operations. The trustees faced a state-mandated deadline of Oct. 1 to approve its licensing ordinance.

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Carbondale is the first local town to approve an ordinance allowing the retail sale of marijuana. The Garfield County commissioners voted 2-1 last month not to allow the retail sale of marijuana in unincorporated parts of the county, which stretches from just east of Carbondale to the Utah border.

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According to the Colorado Municipal League, as of Wednesday morning the other municipalities to adopt an ordinance to regulate or license retail marijuana operations are: Leadville, Central City, Breckenridge, Salida, Empire, Ridgway, Frisco, Silverthorne, Oak Creek and Edgewater.

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Carbondale hired attorney Alison Eastley to help guide it through the process of adopting an unpredicted ordinance that covers everything from the minimum distance retail establishments can be from schools, to whether the town should mandate local ownership of retail establishments and related marijuana-related enterprises such as cultivation. Town manager Jay Harrington compared the process to governments adopting alcohol laws and ordinances after prohibition was repealed in the 1930s.

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At Tuesday night’s meeting, trustee Pam Zentmyer argued for a 10-20 percent local ownership stake in all facets of the legalized marijuana business. She told the trustees that the town’s ordinance is an “opportunity for big outside interests” to move into town and there could be “negative consequences” if that occurs.

Trustees Merriott and Allyn Harvey argued against Zentmyer’s proposal. Merriott said the town doesn’t have ownership restrictions on liquor stores. “I don’t see why we are going down this (Zentmyer’s) path,” he said.

In the end, the ordinance says that at least one co-owner must live between Basalt and Glenwood Springs.

Tuesday night’s regularly schedule trustees meeting was attended by two members of the press and no members of the public.

Trustee John Foulkrod recused himself from discussions a few weeks ago after a property he manages was rented by a company that said it might want to use it for a retail marijuana operation. Trustee Elizabeth Murphy did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting.

During a break following the trustees’ action, Merriott said he was a “little surprised” that mayor Stacey Bernot called for a voice vote to approve the marijuana ordinance, but the board held a four hour work session last week that cleared up many issues.

After the meeting, Harvey said in some respects this is ground breaking legislation for Carbondale. “Some people are nervous about how it might affect the town but it’s legal and this is a well thought out ordinance.”