Pubdate: Thu, 06 Jun 2013
Source: Aspen Times, The  (CO)
Copyright: 2013 Aspen Times
Author: Andre Salvail


Aspen City Attorney Jim True said Wednesday that he soon will suggest
that the City Council hold a work session this month or in July on
whether and how to regulate recreational pot stores in Aspen.

True said there is no hurry because under state law, businesses cannot
apply to become retail pot shops until Oct. 1. The state Department of
Revenue is still writing rules based on legislation recently passed
the Colorado General Assembly. Legislators took up a host of
marijuana-related issues during their January-to-May session after
voters across the state in November passed Amendment 64, which seeks
to have marijuana regulated in the same manner as alcohol.

Among other decisions, the Legislature determined that marijuana can
be sold only to users 21 or older from specially licensed stores that
also will be allowed to sell pot-related items, including pipes. Only
residents of the state can own or invest in the stores. Only owners of
currently permitted medical marijuana dispensaries can apply to open
recreational pot shops for the first nine months, meaning October
through June.

Colorado residents will be able to buy as much as an ounce of pot --
the maximum amount that non-patients may possess -- at the stores.
Out-of-staters will be allowed to purchase only a quarter-ounce at a
time. Products will be sold in child-resistant packages, and edible
pot treats will have serving-size limits.

"I haven't followed it very closely," True said. "I know we're coming
up to a time where the city has to react to various things, but I
don't think we're quite there yet. The state regulations have to be in
place by July 1, and then depending on what happens there, we have
until October in which to take action."

True said the question he's still evaluating is twofold.

"One, what do we have to do? Second, what is the level the council
would want to do?" he said.

The new City Council and mayor will be sworn in Monday. Councilman
Steve Skadron, who won the mayoral runoff Tuesday, will lead three
other council members: newcomers Art Daily and Ann Mullins as well as
Councilman Adam Frisch, who has two years left on his first council
term. The council will have to appoint a fourth council member to fill
Skadron's vacated seat by early July.

Aspen has three medical marijuana dispensaries: Alternative Medical
Solutions on South Mill Street and LEAF Aspen and Silverpeak
Apothecary, both on East Cooper Avenue. Attempts to obtain comments
this week from the local store owners on the new laws and whether they
plan to apply for recreational pot retail licenses were unsuccessful.
One couldn't be reached, one said he was too busy to talk, and a sales
clerk at the third store said its owners no longer wish to speak to
local media.

Municipalities have until Oct. 1 to adopt their own rules for
recreational pot shops, according to Brian Vicente, executive director
of Denver-based Sensible Colorado, a nine-year-old nonprofit that has
been a longtime advocate for medical marijuana patients and also
spearheaded the Amendment 64 campaign.

"Oct. 1 will be the first opportunity that the pre-existing medical
marijuana stores have to register, letting the state and local
governments know they are interested in converting over," Vicente
said. "Then they could be issued licenses (to sell to recreational
users) by Jan. 1."

New retail operations -- those that aren't currently involved in the
medical product -- probably won't be able to obtain a state license
until late 2014, Vicente said.

"I think the premise was that the existing shops have been time-tested
and have shown that they have the ability to sell this product," he
said. "They've gone through all the background checks. We trust them
to be able to sell this product to sick people, so they might as well
be the first ones allowed into this new market."

State lawmakers also decided to give voters the option of imposing
heavy taxes on pot sales. A ballot measure set for November will ask
the state electorate whether to approve a 15 percent excise tax and an
initial 10 percent sales tax on marijuana.

The excise tax would fund school construction; the sales tax would pay
for regulation of marijuana stores.

And lawmakers determined that Colorado drivers will be subject to a
stoned-driving limit. Juries will be allowed to presume that those who
test above the limit are too high to drive.
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