Commissioners approve revised marijuana regulations

Commissioners adopt revised marijuana regulations
Posted on 02/06/2017
Background
In November 2000, Colorado voters passed Amendment 20 to the Colorado Constitution, allowing the use of medical marijuana by persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions.  Amendment 20 is now codified in the Colorado Constitution.  Further, in November 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, decriminalizing the personal cultivation, possession and use of recreational marijuana by persons 21 years or older and regulating it in a manner similar to alcohol. Amendment 64 is now also codified in the Colorado Constitution.

As authorized by Amendments 20 and 64, the Colorado General Assembly  enacted the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code and the Colorado Retail Marijuana Code, authorizing state and local jurisdictions to adopt a regulatory scheme to license and regulate medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments.  

County landscape
The Board of County Commissioners has adopted regulations for the licensing of medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments by the following resolutions and ordinances:

· Resolution No. 2011-39 (adopted Dec.13, 2011) - The resolution adopted medical marijuana licensing regulations for medical marijuana optional premises cultivation operations and medical marijuana-infused products manufacturers;

· Resolution No. 2014-15 (adopted Feb. 11, 2014) - This resolution created Article II of Chapter 7 of the La Plata County Code ("Code"), allowing for the conversion of existing medical marijuana optional premises cultivation operations to retail marijuana cultivation facilities;

· Ordinance No. O-2014-02 (adopted June 10, 2014) - The ordinance amended Article I of Chapter 7 and added Article III of Chapter 7, and authorized the licensing of medical marijuana centers and all retail marijuana establishments then permitted by the State in unincorporated La Plata County, except for within the three (3) mile buffer surrounding the incorporated areas of the Town of Ignacio and the Town of Bayfield; and

· Ordinance No. O-2015-01 (adopted Dec. 8, 2015) - The ordinance repealed and re-enacted Articles I and III of Chapter 7 in their entirety, updating the standards and procedures for local licensing of medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments.

Amendments to the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code and the Colorado Retail Marijuana Code necessitate amendments and updates to the county's licensing regulations.  In addition, since the county's current licensing process has been in place for over two years, staff was directed to review the licensing regulations to determine if modifications to them were warranted.  

Proposed changes
View the revised regulations adopted March 7

After meeting with industry stakeholders and obtaining feedback to several questions about the County's current process, staff had a work session with the Board in October 2016 to discuss several policy issues.  Based on direction received from the Board at the work session, staff is proposing significant amendments to Chapter 7 of the Code.  Below is a list of some of the proposed changes:

1.   Repeal Article II: 
Article II allowed medical marijuana optional premises cultivation operations exiting on or before December 31, 2013, to convert to retail marijuana cultivation facilities.  All medical marijuana optional premises cultivation operations in the County that were eligible to convert to retail marijuana cultivation facilities have completed the conversion process.  Since Article II of Chapter 7 is no longer applicable to any licensees or potential applicants in the County, staff proposes to repeal Article II in its entirety.

2.  Repeal and re-enact Article I and III:

Adopting updated licensing regulations by resolution will provide the County with more flexibility to adjust and amend said regulations in a more timely and cost effective manner, as the need for changes arise.

It is contemplated that the amended regulations will continue to: (1) authorize the licensing of medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments in unincorporated La Plata County, except for within the three  mile buffer surrounding the incorporated areas of the Town of Ignacio and the Town of Bayfield; (2) establish specific standards and procedures for such local licensing; and, (3) prescribe the manner in which medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments can be conducted in the County to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents and visitors to La Plata County.  Specially, contemplated changes will:

·  Grant conditional approval of a license after an initial determination is made regarding an applicant's good moral character, allowing allow applicants more time to obtain necessary land use and building department approvals without requiring an applicant to re-apply for a state license.

·  Extend the time frame allowed to obtain land use and building department approval from one (1) year to eighteen (18) months, with possible extension of such deadline for good cause.

·  Eliminate mandatory fingerprint requirements for renewal applications.

 ·  Allow licensees to make modifications to their licensed premises, as outlined in the proposed regulations, without prior approval of the local licensing authority.  

·  Allow staff to work with licensees to correct code violations not involving public safety, without the need to pursue enforcement actions with the local licensing authority when compliance is diligently pursued.

3.   Name the Board of County Commissioners as the marijuana local licensing authority, terminating the appointment of the previously appointed licensing authority members.

View the revised regulations adopted March 7