City repeals pot moratorium

Medical dispensaries can now apply for retail business licenses

A city of Cortez moratorium on recreational marijuana sales has been repealed, meaning local marijuana dispensary owners can now apply for retail business licenses.

City Manager Shane Hale said the adoption of Ordinance No. 1192, Series 2014, took effect on Tuesday, Sept. 2. The 18-page law formally adopted local regulations to monitor and control retail marijuana storefronts along with cultivation and testing facilities.

Hale said a local moratorium, set to expire at the end of the year on retail marijuana sales, was lifted as a result of the ordinance, adding that any of the city’s four medical marijuana licensees could immediately apply for a retail license through the state. A $7,000 application fee, required for a Cortez retail license, is earmarked to cover enforcement of the new law.

Garrett Smith, owner of The Herbal Alternative on Lebanon Road, said he planned to apply for a retail license as soon as possible. He must first make an appointment with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division in Denver.

“We don’t have an exact date yet on when we will start selling recreational cannabis,” said Smith.

Ordinance No. 1192 was adopted by the Cortez City Council last week in a 5-2 vote. Smith praised local officials for adopting the law.

“The city council took their time and made the right decision,” said Smith.

Hale said the city did not have any immediate issues to tackle involving retail marijuana, but said the city did plan to make periodic changes to the retail ordinance as well as the medical marijuana code as issues arose from the burgeoning industries.

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, any gangapreneur can apply for a local retail license, assuming they meet zoning and distance requirements, said Hale.

At a recent public hearing on recreational marijuana, a generational divide was clearly evident. Older residents argued in opposition to the law, citing cannabis was a federally prohibited “gateway drug” that jeopardized the rural community’s traditional way of life. Younger residents in support of marijuana reform cited their grey-haired counterparts were “misinformed,” adding the nation’s war on drugs was a losing battle.

Retail marijuana sales to adults 21 and older have been legal across the state since Jan. 1. Cortez is now among some 40 other Colorado municipalities to adopt retail licensing regulations.

Under Colorado law, residents 21 and older can possess, use, display, gift or transport up to one ounce of marijuana as well as cultivate up to six marijuana plants.