Marijuana: Red Cliff officials hope recreational pot can help refill town coffers

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With more than two dozen cities and as many as fifty counties deciding against allowing recreational marijuana sales in one way or another, it seems that finding a legal bag of herb for sale come January 1 will be limited to a handful of locales.

Some places are seeing this as a opportunity to draw some much needed revenue from nearby dry towns and counties. Take Red Cliff, in Eagle County, which has decided to allow recreational cannabis sales as a way to generate money for the tiny, cash-strapped former mining town.

Mayor Scott Burgess, seen above, points out that nearby Gypsum, Avon, Vail and Minturn have either put moratoriums on recreational sales or banned them outright. Recreational outlets will also be allowed in unincorporated Eagle County and potentially in the town of Eagle -- the only community with a medical marijuana dispensary in the county.

"The bottom line is that we need revenue for our town," Burgess tells Westword. "We don't have very many businesses here. There's one hotel, a restaurant, a convenience store and a liquor store."

Red Cliff operates on a $250,000 budget and Burgess says a recent 25 percent dip in property values means less revenue projected for the coming year -- as much as $38,000. That might not seem like a huge figure, but Burgess says it will mean eliminating a full time position with the city -- of which there are currently two.

Burgess says the town is working on a proposal that would allow dispensaries within city limits and impose a 5 percent special tax on top of the existing city sales tax of 7.4 percent. Otherwise, Red Cliff will leave all regulations and licensing to the state. The town will only have to give final approval.

But while the town is open to allowing dispensaries, Burgess says it likely won't become the Rocky Mountain Amsterdam. In his opinion, the motion to allow dispensaries is more about keeping options open instead of closing doors on potential revenue -- especially considering Red Cliff's proximity to other recreational-herb-free towns. The plan isn't to lure dispensaries, as places like Nederland are apparently considering. But what happens happens.

"If we are the only ones in between Vail and Beaver Creek [allowing recreational sales], then that someone will knock on our door," he says. "We aren't going to shut the door like 90 percent of the other towns and municipalities in the state. We just can't shut the door on any business that wants to open here."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Pot friendly motels in Denver? The canna-tourists want to know."

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