County poised to quash pot shops

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A proposed ordinance that would ban commercial marijuana operations within unincorporated areas of Elbert County is one step closer to becoming final.

On first reading, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a draft of Ordinance 13-01 during its regular board meeting on Aug. 14.

According to Alex Beltz, attorney for the county, the ordinance must be published in the local newspaper of record, and then come back to the board for a second reading before becoming final.

The move comes in response to the recent state-approved Amendment 64, which allows for the personal use and commercial sale of marijuana.

“Under the constitutional provision (of Amendment 64), local governments are afforded the rights to prohibit the commercial elements of marijuana within their jurisdictions, and this ordinance effectively does that,” explained Beltz. “This (ordinance) will prohibit the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail marijuana stores within the unincorporated areas of the county.”

Although the controversial amendment to allow non-medical use of cannabis was rejected by a majority of Elbert County voters, it passed statewide with slightly more than 55 percent of the vote.

The initiative gained notoriety for its conflict with federal prohibition laws, prompting many counties to declare moratoriums and eventually outright bans.

“I’m not clairvoyant,” said District 2 Commissioner Kurt Schlegel, “but I believe within the next couple of years, this will become legal at the federal level.”

According to Beltz, should the ordinance be adopted and federal law change, the county always has the option to rescind its decision.

“We are actually limited in what we can say in this ordinance in accordance with the state constitution,” he said, “strictly limiting it to the prohibition of retail marijuana stores, cultivation facilities and testing facilities, and so we’ve stayed well within our parameters of what the state has outlined.”

Beltz anticipates the second reading of the ordinance will occur during the Sept. 11 board meeting.

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