Marijuana: Eagle County okays recreational pot sales

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The Town of Vail may have banned recreational marijuana stores, but the Eagle County commissioners this week agreed to allow pot shops to open in unincorporated parts of the county. So Eagle County now joins neighbor and fellow tourist magnet Summit County in allowing recreational pot sales. The two yes votes came from commissioners Jill Ryan and Kathy Chandler-Henry, who said they were simply following the will of Eagle County voters, who approved Amendment 64 with a 66.5 percent "yes" vote.

Commissioner Sara Fisher, who voted against the proposal at the meeting, explained that she wasn't against marijuana or marijuana users, but wanted to "minimize the effects of marijuana, and we need to be careful about sending the wrong message to children." She also warned that the county needs to proceed slowly with licensing the shops.

"Yes, people voted for it, but I'd like us to slow down," Fisher told those attending the meeting, according to the Vail Daily. "The black market will continue to exist, and I'm concerned about not being able to turn back the clock if we mess up."

Discussion of the subject took the better part of three hours on November 18, with the commissioners deciding on a few key guidelines moving forward. Notably, the shops will have to operate in commercial and commercial-limited zones of the county.

They can't be within 500 feet of county high schools, which eliminates at least one large and rather busy shopping center near Edwards. Council also proposed creating a special tax on recreational cannabis sales that would help fund local schools.

Medical pot shops and recreational stores can operate out of the same location, but the county will limit the total number of retail dispensaries. Proposals range from letting existing shops transition to retail to allowing up to eight shops total in the county.

The commissioners decided to leave the limit up to the county attorney's staff, which will write up the licensing rules over the next few weeks. Currently, there are four medical marijuana shops in the county; the commissioners expect that all of them will switch to either recreational or dual-use shops.

Cultivation, hash and edible-making and cannabis-testing labs will be allowed in the county. The commissioners also adopted rules regarding home cultivation, making it illegal to grow more than eighteen cannabis plants in a private home regardless of whether more than three adults are living in the house. State law allows each individual 21 and over to grow up to six plants, with no more than three in flower at any time.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Many ski towns allowing recreational pot sales" and "Marijuana enforcement at ski areas on federal land a priority, says Forest Service rep."

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