Marijuana moratorium posited

Trustees differ on specifics

Town officials last week tossed around the idea of a retail marijuana moratorium until the state comes up with clearer guidelines on buying and selling it.

On advice from attorney David Liberman, clerk/treasurer Heather Alvarez recommended the town have something in place by the end of May. She mentioned six months as a possible time frame, but added that a moratorium could be lifted at any time by a Town Board vote.

"I'm suggesting we put this in place until everyone is on the same page," she said. "There still are no hard-and-fast rules confirmed by the state."

Under Amendment 64, the Colorado Department of Revenue has until July 1 to answer questions on licensing, labeling, safety standards and taxation. But the legislature must adopt a bill before it adjourns on May 8 (though a special extended session could be called). In March, Gov. John Hickenloopers' task force released 58 recommendations on regulating marijuana, but they aren't binding.

"We are a statutory town," Alvarez said Monday. "We basically look to state statutes for our town laws. Right now there isn't anything at state level that gives us procedures to follow."

Alvarez's idea prompted a minor quarrel between trustees Perry Lewis and Chip Tuthill. Concerned about the ramifications of state law contradicting federal law - which bans recreational marijuana use - Tuthill wondered if the moratorium should be indefinite "until those laws line up." Lewis countered that Mancos should honor the wishes of Colorado voters, who approved Amendment 64 by a 55-45 margin.

"The citizens of Colorado passed it. We are beholden to them," he said.

Ultimately the board took the suggestion of Trustee Queenie Barz. She asked Lieberman to draw up a vaguely-worded moratorium the board could pin down and adopt at a later date.

Small-scale possession and private consumption of marijuana is now legal in Colorado. But how retail shops are permitted to market and sell it to recreational users is still cloudy. The Department of Revenue regulations are due in July, and in October it must start accepting and processing license applications. After a 90-day waiting period, those licenses can then be distributed starting in January 2014.