(Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

Jeffco board asks for non-retail pot options for unincorporated areas

GOLDEN — It’s unlikely that unincorporated Jefferson County will see retail marijuana shops soon, although the Board of Commissioners could be on board with allowing pot testing facilities in the near future.

At a special staff briefing Friday, commissioners gave county staff a more clear direction on areas to study regarding the marijuana industry before the commissioners make a decision on how to proceed. The county has a moratorium banning the marijuana business in unincorporated areas until Jan. 1, 2016.

County staff told the commissioners previously that staff would need general directions almost immediately so they could work on amending zoning regulations and notify the public of hearings in time to vote on any matter by Nov. 17, which staff said would be the deadline prior to the moratorium expiring.

Staff briefed the commissioners on options regarding retail sales, manufacturing, testing and cultivation. Staff broke down the least restrictive options to the most restrictive.

Commissioners were hesitant to advise staff to spend time investigating retail sales.

“I’m comfortable saying, based on all the facts, that retail might not be the best option,” Commissioner Casey Tighe said. “I think our feeling right now is staff should not spend time analyzing retail options.”

Tighe specifically referenced the questions surrounding the county’s ability to tax the industry and cited a lawsuit filed this week against Adams County, which is being sued by Commerce City, Aurora and Northglenn regarding a sales tax the county imposed on the marijuana industry.

Commissioner Don Rosier, who has previously supported an investigation into allowing testing facilities, again advocated for staff to look at options to allow testing and options for restrictions.

Rosier noted the shortage of testing sites in the state and said Jeffco would be a good candidate for a well-educated, high-paying industry.

“I don’t see this as issue — I see it as an economic developer,” he said.

Both Tighe and Commissioner Libby Szabo agreed and asked to staff to further study testing options. The commissioners also asked staff for options on cultivation and manufacturing.

Szabo stressed to the board that she doesn’t believe there is enough information out there to make a good decision on the marijuana issue.

“I don’t think the data is in to make a conclusion,” she said. “We would be flying off our hip to solve an issue where we don’t even know some of the things that could come out of it.”

Szabo joined the board in January and has not yet voted on the matter as commissioner.

If the county is to allow part of the marijuana business in unincorporated Jeffco, she believes it should be done slowly over time, while carefully analyzing what’s happening around the state.

She said: “I think people put us in office to make clear, sound decisions, not shoot from the hip.”

Joe Vaccarelli: 303-954-2396, jvaccarelli@denverpost.com or twitter.com/joe_vacc

This story was first published on DenverPost.com