Marijuana: Commercial pot shops prohibited in Douglas County as others consider bans

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Is Douglas County jumping the gun?

According to county officials, no.

Amendment 64, Colorado's Regulate Alcohol Like Marijuana act, legalizes small amounts of recreational marijuana for adults. Officially signed into law earlier this month, individuals 21 and over can now legally smoke in private, give pot to other adults and grow up to six plants.

But no one can sell recreational marijuana -- at least not yet. A64 stipulates that all recreational shops will have to be licensed before they can open, and that requires the Colorado Legislature to actually create the framework for the licensing process, which it could do this upcoming session. That means Colorado probably won't see pot shops opening their doors until January 2014, at the earliest. (And that timeline doesn't take into account potential enforcement action from the federal government, which maintains that pot is illegal).

So why is Douglas County going forward with a ban on retail activity before 2013 even begins?

First of all, Douglas County spokeswoman Wendy Holmes tell us, the municipality is allowed to enact the ordinance.

A64 stipulates that governments can have local control over the commercial aspect of legalization and DougCo's ordinance, which went into effect yesterday, is taking advantage of this. On full view below, it says:

Consistent with the authority granted to a "Locality" under the provisions of Amendment 64, the Board of County Commissioners desires to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities or retail marijuana stores within the unincorporated areas of Douglas County, Colorado.

As we reported in November when it was proposed, the Douglas County commissioners have a long of history of anti-marijuana policies when it comes to commercial activity. DougCo took a similar stance related to medical marijuana.

Holmes says the county is doing this now because it wants to avoid a situation in which pot shops open up and then subsequent voter-backed measures ban them, forcing active retail operations to shut down.

"To be fair to the entrepreneur that wants to be in that business, the board wants to send a message right away that they are going to honor the will of the voters," she says. "We just didn't think that was fair to the business community."

The will of the voters that Holmes is referring to is not the majority of Coloradans who favored legalization on November 6, but rather the majority of Douglas County residents who opposed A64 -- and have repeatedly voted against pro-pot proposals.

Continue for more on Douglas County and other potential bans in Colorado.

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin