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Gunnison County says no to legal pot…for now

Future may hold changes

The Gunnison County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) passed an ordinance this week prohibiting the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail marijuana stores within the unincorporated boundaries of Gunnison County. One member of the public attended the meeting in which the decision was made.
Though it may sound like the BOCC is saying no to marijuana in the county, the commissioners said this was not the case. Rather, the ruling is part of a strategy to maintain local control over marijuana while the BOCC and county staff work to determine how regulations of the above activities might be devised and implemented.



Under Amendment 64, which was adopted in November 2012 and legalized the personal use of marijuana within Colorado, counties and municipalities have until October 1, 2013 to decide if they will self-regulate the drug and its associated issues, or if they will leave those decisions to the state.
“This is the opportunity for local government to regulate grow operations, production and manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail stores. If the County [chooses] not to act, that is to be silent, then by default all four would be allowed in unincorporated Gunnison County and be under the regulation of the state,” said county attorney David Baumgarten.
By making a decision to adopt the ordinance, the BOCC announced that they would rather have the power of regulation locally.
“We [did] not want to default under the state regulations,” said Commissioner Jonathan Houck.
Despite its decision for prohibition, the board made clear within the writing of the ordinance that it would “continue to consider affirmatively all activities” related to the future policy and regulations for the operation of marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, and resale facilities.
As such, the BOCC charged county staff with investigating the details and regulations that would be involved in legalizing the growing and cultivation of marijuana in unincorporated Gunnison County.
“We would like to look at grow operations first, and consider their presence in the county before we start looking at manufacturing and retail sale,” said Commissioner Paula Swenson. “The idea is, we could create a phased process for acceptance based on what’s appropriate for the county.”
Houck added that it was his intention to usher the county in the way of acceptance where appropriate. “I would like to move forward with an affirmative piece in recognition of the people’s vote last year,” he said.
Last week, the town of Crested Butte approved an ordinance regulating the retail sale, testing and production of recreational approval in town, but failed to approve grow operations.
“[Approving cultivation in the county] could be complementary to the components that were left out of Crested Butte’s decision,” said Swenson.
For the full text of the ordinance, see page 28.

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