(Ed Andrieski, Associated Press file)

Jeffco considers allowing marijuana testing facilities (but still no rec sales)

It’s unlikely anyone would accuse Jefferson County commissioners of rushing when it comes to deciding a marijuana policy, but one issue could be settled soon.

Commissioner Don Rosier, who represents the southern and mountainous parts of the county, recently proposed allowing testing facilities in unincorporated Jeffco — while waiting on other issues such as cultivation and recreational marijuana sales — and would like to make a decision soon. Allowing the testing facilities would be a pilot project and Rosier said the commissioners could re-evaluate after a period of time.

Testing facilities test marijuana for such things as THC content, pesticides and fungi, and the potency of edibles.

So why decide to allow testing facilities before recreational sales or any other aspect that could generate tax revenue for the county? Rosier says there is a need for testing, especially after Lakewood and Golden decided to ban marijuana.

Cities like Wheat Ridge and Edgewater allow retail sales, but they don’t have any testing facilities.

“I think there is a great need for testing facilities,” Rosier said. “I think it will benefit the entire state.”

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The county recently extended a moratorium on marijuana to Jan. 1, 2016, after asking a working group to study the issue. The previous moratorium was set to expire Feb. 1.

Members on both sides of the issue who served on the working group don’t necessarily support allowing testing facilities. The majority of the group voted to ban marijuana in unincorporated parts of the county.

Tom Gorman, with the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area — and leader of the “opt out” camp in the workgroup — said it could be a slippery slope.

He also said there is not much to gain and testing could open the door to other parts of the marijuana industry. He added that marijuana sales are still a federal crime and allowing testing facilities would be helping the industry.

“I think the Jefferson County commissioners, for no other reason, would certainly not want to send a message out that they’re willing to do that,” Gorman said.

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Ronn Nixon, a paralegal and member of the Cannabis Patients Alliance, said he considers testing a “safe” choice for the commissioners but agreed it sends the wrong message.

Nixon penned an addition to the working group’s report, pointing out what he said are systemic and institutional biases within the county that are anti-marijuana. He said he thinks that allowing testing without the retail sends a message that more-educated testers are OK, but the shops that sell marijuana to regular people are not.

He also doesn’t see much benefit for the county as he doesn’t believe the testing facilities would generate any tax incentive from the state.

“I have to question the wisdom of putting laboratory testing facilities in a county where local municipalities have opted out and the unincorporated part doesn’t yet allow the consumer aspect,” Nixon said.

However, Nixon applauded the commissioners for looking at the issue and not simply going with the majority of the group.

“I think that speaks volumes of the good judgment they have taken on the issue,” Nixon said.

Joe Vaccarelli: 303-954-2396, jvaccarelli@denverpost.com

This story was first published on DenverPost.com