CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Details, details, details. Across Colorado, towns and county officials are fiddling with whether to allow sale of marijuana for recreational purposes and under what terms.
Some are inclined to just say no. Crested Butte is not among them. It went through some anxieties several years ago in drawing up rules governing sale of medical marijuana sales, but that has worked out pretty well.
This time, the town council appears to be leaning toward allowing sale of marijuana throughout the town's business districts. There has been some sentiment to restricting it to those areas reserved more for support services, such as the paint stores, plumbing shops and so forth, as was done with medical marijuana.
Stephanie Cantu, manager of Acme Dispensary, one of three stores in Crested Butte already licensed to sell marijuana for medical purposes, said zoning marijuana to the side streets won't preclude business. "You guys say you don't want to scare tourists away? On average, we probably get 12 tourists in every day just checking us out."
Others pointed out that Elk Avenue, the prime venue for tourism, already has a distillery and a brewery. If those are tolerable, what's to fear from recreational marijuana?
Also under discussion, according to a report in the Crested Butte News, were whether hours of operations should be limited, such as to 10 p.m.
And should there controls over advertising? Some medical marijuana retailers had used lollipops and candy in advertisements, which some people saw as a direct appeal to children. This is probably the touchiest issue in Crested Butte and many other places.
In Aspen, city officials plan to allow only a handful of retailers, but those will be regulated much like alcohol. In other words, all business zones will be fine. However, staff members advise elected officials to ban private "pot clubs." Public use is banned under public law, and the legality of private clubs is still unclear. Aspen is inclined to let some other jurisdiction to figure that out.
For governments, recreational marijuana figures to be a big tax gain. Aspen has collected more than $100,000 from its three existing medical marijuana dispensaries since they opened in 2009. The state plans substantial taxes for recreational marijuana. Local governments can add more. Some people worry that an underground market for marijuana will continue in Colorado even after it becomes legal to sell in January.
Giving Colorado some comfort as it draws up a regulatory framework for marijuana sales is a memorandum issued by a U.S. Justice Department official in late May. That memo says prosecution of federal marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington State will not be a priority.
Those laws had been in place since 1937 when Congress, with nary any dissent, banned marijuana, a drug whose use was then confined mostly by racial minorities and economically marginalized people.
The first arrest under the new law was of a 57-year-old unemployed labourer in Denver, who was sentenced to four years at Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas for selling two joints.