BOULDER -- Boulder County's staff will likely seek a timeout on the startup of retail sales of recreational marijuana in unincorporated parts of the county, Land Use Department director Dale Case said Tuesday.
A moratorium would give the staff time to craft regulations that conform to Colorado's new recreational-marijuana laws and state regulations, Case said.
Commissioner Cindy Domenico indicated that sometime this fall, the county board will probably approve a moratorium rather than trying to come up with its own rules and regulations by January, when non-medical marijuana sales are set to begin in cities and counties that haven't adopted prohibitions or moratoria.
"I think it's very important to do this process well, as well as we can," Domenico said in an interview.
But she said commissioners likely won't consider an outright ban on recreational marijuana sales.
"We need to reflect the voters' will," said Domenico, referring to Colorado voters' November 2012 approval of Amendment 64, which allows individuals age 21 and older to possess, use, purchase or transport one ounce or less of marijuana.
However, when it comes to new Boulder County rules about where businesses can grow and sell recreational marijuana, "the public needs to know exactly how it will work," Domenico said, and the rules have to be well thought out.
Boulder County is still trying to work through the appropriateness of Land Use Code provisions commissioners adopted more than three years ago to regulate medical marijuana establishments in unincorporated parts of the county, she pointed out.
While Boulder County's commissioners approved the county's medical-marijuana provisions in June 2010, they didn't adopt licensing regulations until September 2011.
The county got its first medical marijuana licensing application in July 2012, and Liz Donaghey, a county staffer who oversees that licensing, indicated on Tuesday that most of the 48 applications the county has received since then are still being reviewed.
Of the 48, Donaghey said, several were withdrawn or denied, and only two county licenses have been awarded. Those two applicants and 37 others are legally operating while they await decisions on licensing or compliance with land-use requirements.
On Tuesday, Domenico and Commissioner Elise Jones authorized the Land Use Department staff to draft amendments to the county code's zoning and land use regulations for medical marijuana establishments.
One proposed change will probably add "medical marijuana research facilities" to the establishments subject to county land use restrictions.
Another possible amendment might give more flexibility to the current requirements that infused-products manufacturers and growing operations must be set back at least 1,000 feet from any nearby drug or alcohol treatment facility, any licensed child care facility, or any school with students below college level.
The Land Use Department staff said such industrial operations don't have the same presence and impact on neighboring properties as retail dispensaries do, because the industrial operations don't have signs, retail sales or public access.
The 1,000-foot setback rule would continue to apply to medical marijuana retail centers.
The Boulder County staff plans to present the proposed Land Use Code amendments about medical marijuana centers to the County Planning Commission on Sept. 18.
John Fryar can be reached at 303-684-5211 or email@example.com.