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County enacts moratorium on pot shops

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By Ramsey Scott

Jeffco has decided to put the brakes on retail marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas of the county.

The county commissioners voted 3-0 to prohibit any retail marijuana businesses from setting up shop. The ban includes retail sales and growing operations, along with testing and packaging facilities.

The ordinance is set to expire on Feb. 1, 2015, unless the commissioners vote to extend it, make it permanent or repeal it. Amendment 64, approved by voters in November and legalizing recreational marijuana, allows county and city governments to opt out of retail sales.

Assistant County Attorney Eric Butler said the moratorium buys the county time to get guidelines from the state regarding implementation of Amendment 64.

While a regulatory framework for retail marijuana was approved by the legislature recently, the Department of Revenue has until July 1 to issue its own regulations on the licensing of retail marijuana businesses.

If those regulations aren’t ready by Oct. 1 when people can begin to apply for retail marijuana licenses, it will fall to local governments to come up with their own regulations and begin issuing licenses. Butler said that even if regulations are in place by the deadline, they will most likely be emergency rules subject to change.

District Attorney Pete Weir and Jeffco Sheriff Ted Mink spoke in favor of the moratorium, saying it would let the county take a measured approach to any possible retail marijuana stores in Jeffco.

Since the county opted out of retail sales, it also opted out of any revenue created from statewide taxes on retail marijuana. Currently, the state is proposing a 15 percent excise tax on the production of marijuana and a 10 percent sales tax on any retail sales.

If Jeffco were to allow retail sales, it would collect 15 percent of any sales tax generated within the county. 

Cities and counties that ban retail marijuana would not be able to collect any impact funds from the state.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.