County presses pause on pot clubs

ALAMOSA — Because there are no pending requests to open a marijuana club, Alamosa County Commissioners approved a moratorium on the topic during their meeting on Wednesday. The resolution gives them six months to draft regulations that either allow or prohibit pot consumption clubs.

"I don't want it to come back and bite us when we're not ready for it," said Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen.

Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, prohibits smoking it in public—whether outside or indoors—and prohibits it being consumed where it was sold. Private consumption clubs have recently grown as a way for people to enjoy it socially outside of their individual residences. It also gives tourists who can't consume it in their hotel rooms a place to go.

Denver, for example, passed an ordinance last November that allows for people to consume edibles or vape at membership-based clubs. Legislators were close to passing statewide regulations this spring, however, the bill died when Gov. John Hickenlooper said he would veto it if it didn't comply with the Clean Indoor Air Act.

According to The Associated Press, lawmakers were also concerned about drawing unwanted attention from federal drug enforcers.

Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly said this would give them time to see how it fits into the land use code and, if allowed, decide how close they'll be to other structures such as schools. "The purpose is to look into and decide what will be a reasonable regulation," said Kelly.

The city of Alamosa approved a similar moratorium in March.

Allen cited historical reasons why to do the moratorium. "Around 15 years ago we had an adult entertainment establishment that wanted to come into the county," he said. "We had no regulations in our codes to deal with adult entertainment so we put a moratorium on it until we came up with the regulations."

Alamosa County Commissioner Michael Yohn thought it was a good idea as well. "I think this is a step in the right direction," he said. "We had a moratorium for the other marijuana issues."

The six-month moratorium allows for the commissioners to wait until after the November election. During the public comment period earlier in the meeting Shanna Hobbs, who works at the medical marijuana dispensary High Valley Healing, announced that she was planning to turn in the requisite petition signatures to the city to have them verified. If everything checks out then the question of selling recreational marijuana will be on the city's ballot.

However, the county does not have a petition process. Hobbs asked the commissioners to reconsider their decision in March to not allow the issue on the ballot.

"I want to remind you guys that this is something important to a lot of people," Hobbs said. "I understand it's controversial, but that's why it should be put into plain language and decided by the voters."

The commissioners put a similar question on the ballot in 2014 and it failed to pass by 874 votes. Since Hobbs asked during the public comment section there was no formal motion or decision made by the board.