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13 questions: Marijuana in Carbondale and Colorado

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13 questions: Marijuana in Carbondale and Colorado

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By Bob Ward

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Special to The Sopris Sun

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The market for recreational marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and retail sales in Colorado officially opens for business this coming January, but the licensing process actually began this week at the state level. Carbondale is among a handful of communities around the state that has adopted local marijuana licensing rules so that existing medical marijuana businesses can expand into the recreational side of the market, and new businesses can open. 

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The Sopris Sun put together a list of questions about what the legalization of recreational marijuana means for Carbondale and sent them over to Town Hall for answers. Those answers are  informative and revealing about the near-term future for this new industry. 

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1. Will it be legal to smoke pot in Sopris Park during Mountain Fair? Will it be legal to smoke pot in a retail marijuana shop?

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No, Amendment 64 prohibits “consumption that is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.” And you may not smoke marijuana on the premises of a retail marijuana establishment, shop or otherwise.

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2. What will happen with people who are caught selling pot without a license (“dealers”) or outside a licensed facility?

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They will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

3. Are hours of operation governed by state or local rules, and what are they?

The state governs the hours of operation, which are 8 a.m. through 12 a.m. Monday through Sunday.

4. Please explain the local and state marijuana tax questions the people of Carbondale will vote on in November.

The Town’s ballot question (2C) would impose a 5 percent sales tax and a 5 percent excise tax; the sales tax would be imposed on retail sales of marijuana from stores to customers, whereas the excise tax would be imposed on the wholesale transfer from a manufacturer or cultivation facility to a retail marijuana facility. These sales and excise taxes are in addition to the existing 3.5 percent local sales tax rate. Revenues will be used to fund the enforcement and regulation of the retail marijuana industry, and other town expenses including education and public health programs. The Board of Trustees will be capable of lowering or revoking the sales tax rates.

The state’s ballot question (Proposition AA) seeks to impose both a sales tax and an excise tax. The 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on the average wholesale price of recreational marijuana. Public school construction would receive the first $40 million of annual tax revenue. The 10 percent sales tax would be imposed on the sale of retail marijuana and marijuana products from stores to customers (in addition to the existing 2.9 percent sales tax at the state level). These revenues would be used to fund enforcement and regulation of the recreational marijuana industry and related health, education and public safety issues.

The state proposes to give 15 percent of the revenues collected from the 10 percent sales tax to cities and counties where recreational marijuana sales occur. The proposition would allow the state legislature to increase or decrease the excise and sales taxes on retail marijuana so long as the rate of either tax does not exceed 15 percent.

5. What can be sold in a marijuana store?

Recreational marijuana and recreational marijuana products. Stores can also sell paraphernalia (pipes, etc.). A store may not sell any consumable product (cigarettes, tobacco, food, drink) that is not a recreational marijuana product.

6. What is the legal age for buying pot in a store? Is it legal to be in a pot store if you’re under that age?

The age is 21. No one under the age of 21 is allowed in an area where recreational marijuana products are sold, manufactured, processed or tested.

7. What is the maximum amount you can buy in one day or one visit to the store?

Colorado residents can buy one ounce in a single sale; non-residents are limited to one quarter-ounce per single sale. There is no limit on the amount you can buy in a single day; just the amount you can buy in a single sale.

8. Explain the residency requirements for cultivating, manufacturing and selling pot.

Local rules require an applicant seeking licensure for a recreational marijuana store, manufacturing facility or cultivation facility to have a local agent who will serve as a point of contact for the town. The agent shall have at least a partial ownership interest in the facility and shall have a primary home within the 81621, 81623 or 81601 ZIP codes. The state requires owner-applicants to be a residents of Colorado for at least two years prior to the date of their application.

9. When can we expect to see marijuana shops in Carbondale, and where can they (and can’t they) be located?

The earliest would be January 1, 2014, but mid-winter is more realistic (it depends on how quickly the state processes the application). Shops can only be located on lots where retail is a permitted use under the Carbondale Land Use Code. They can’t be located within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, drug and/or alcohol facility, and if they are located on Main Street between Snowmass Drive and 7th Street, then they cannot be located within 400 feet of each other. Home occupation businesses are prohibited.

10. Where do pot shops get their pot? Are cultivation and manufacturing operations required to serve local pot operations?

Until July 1, 2014, only the three medical marijuana stores currently in operation may apply for a license to operate a recreational marijuana business. Recreational marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, and manufacturers must be vertically integrated, i.e. stores must get 70 percent of their cultivated or manufactured product from a cultivator or manufacturer that is under common ownership. However, the other 30 percent may be sold to another licensed recreational marijuana establishment without any ownership/vertical integration requirements.

11. What restrictions are there on marijuana growing operations? For instance, could someone come to town, set up a growing operation and sell wholesale to anyone?

The local and state residency requirements (see above) pertain to cultivation operations as well. Until July 1, 2014 only the three medical marijuana businesses in Carbondale (if they choose to apply and receive a license) may cultivate recreational marijuana. Beginning January 2, 2014 the town will begin accepting letters of intent from people wanting to open recreational marijuana businesses.  The Town will begin licensing additional recreational marijuana businesses on July 1, 2014. The town has capped the number of all recreational marijuana businesses at five per type (retail sales, manufacturing, cultivation, testing) until July 1, 2015.

A recreational marijuana wholesaler may only sell to a licensed recreational marijuana business.

12. Describe what a manufacturing operation might look like and where it could be located.

All recreational marijuana businesses are required to have a security alarm system, locks and a video surveillance camera that operates continuously.  The manufacturing operation is required to have a professional kitchen. There are also very specific labeling and bookkeeping requirements.

A manufacturing operation can only be located in an area zoned Commercial/Retail/ Wholesale or General Industrial. They may not be located within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, drug and/or alcohol facility. The applicant also has to apply for a special use permit pursuant to Town of Carbondale Land Use Code provisions. No home occupation businesses are permitted.

13. Carbondale allows all four types of marijuana operations that are allowed under state law. What are they?

• Retail Marijuana Store: A business licensed to purchase recreational marijuana from a cultivation facility and products from a licensed manufacturing facility and then sell those items to consumers.

• Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facility: A licensed facility that cultivates, harvests and packages recreational marijuana for sale to retail stores.

• Retail Marijuana Products Manufacturing Facility: A facility licensed to purchase recreational marijuana and then manufacture, prepare and package products (infused cookies, candy, drinks, etc.) for sale to a retail store.

• Retail Marijuana Testing Facility: A facility that scientifically tests recreational marijuana samples for toxins and THC potency.