BOULDER -- Boulder County commissioners opened the door Tuesday to allowing existing medical marijuana businesses to expand into the recreational marijuana marketplace.
Under a licensing measure approved by Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones, medical marijuana facilities in the county's unincorporated areas would be eligible to seek county licenses to grow, manufacture, test, store and sell marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use.
Boulder County is to begin accepting and processing recreational marijuana license applications Dec. 9.
However, only those establishments that have county medical marijuana licenses, or that had applied for such licenses as of Oct. 1, can begin applying for Boulder County recreational marijuana licenses. Any other would-be recreational marijuana businesses would have to wait until at least Jan. 1, 2015, to start applying for county recreational marijuana licenses.
Jones said the new regulations will allow Boulder County to move forward with carrying out the will of the majority of Colorado and Boulder County voters who approved Amendment 64, the state constitutional amendment that legalized the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults over the age of 21, and that the county rules "will do so in a way that's safe for our children."
The regulations include a number of provisions that staff said are intended to prevent or discourage youths' purchases of marijuana. That includes a prohibition for anyone under age 21 from being inside any retail marijuana store -- something the shops would have to verify with an electronic ID scanner -- and would require that recreational marijuana buyers' receipts carry notices stating that it's illegal to transfer or sell marijuana to anyone under 21.
Deb Roberts, executive director of the Longmont-based Alternatives for Youth organization, said during Tuesday's public hearing that even with those provisions on the books, "we've got to have the enforcement piece and the monitoring" to protect teens from getting access to the substance.
Michael Bellingham, an owner of the Boulder Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Boulder, expressed disappointment that the county's moratorium on new recreational applications won't allow him to try to open a business outside that city.
If it were to allow others to submit applications between now and January 2015, "the county will not be inundated by an influx" of retail recreational marijuana shops, Bellingham predicte4.
But Ben Cort, a Longmont resident who's a community liaison at the University of Colorado hospital system and the father of three children, said: "I love the fact that our county is taking things slowly".
"Thanks," Cort said. "Let's keep going slow."
John Fryar can be reached at 303-684-5211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.