Palisade says no to social clubs for pot smokers

Palisade may be the only place in the Grand Valley where you’ll find medical marijuana, but it has joined the crowd in banning the legally gray “marijuana clubs” that have sporadically popped up in the wake of the passage of Amendment 64.

That amendment’s passage by Colorado voters in November — which all but legalized small-scale marijuana possession — left a crack of uncertainty open that a handful of creative club owners have kicked open. At at least one club in Denver, you can pay a small cover charge, bring your own marijuana, and toke up with the rest of the crowd.

Palisade’s board of trustees Tuesday evening headed off the possibility of these types of pot clubs by unanimously adopting an emergency ordinance that effectively bans them within town limits.

“I got a call late this afternoon … specifically asking how they could put one of these clubs in Palisade,” town administrator Rich Sales said Tuesday. “So there is a pressure on this point. There are people who are looking to do this.”

In essence, the measure gives local government some time to figure out what direction they may want to go about the issue.

Trustee Dave Edwards stressed that the measure is only temporary, and raised the idea of a potential vote in a future municipal election “so that we can elicit (a direction) from our community, from Palisade citizens.”

By banning the social marijuana clubs Tuesday, Palisade joins the city Fruita, which enacted its own moratorium earlier this month. Officials with the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County appear headed down the same path, after some initial discussions among them.

In drafting the ordinance, Palisade town attorney Ed Sands shed additional light on exactly the kinds of legal gray area that have been exposed by the passage of Amendment 64.

For example, the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits the smoking of tobacco and medical marijuana within most commercial buildings, but not the smoking of recreational marijuana. Sands says the state Legislature is expected to address that discrepancy sometime soon.

Also, Amendment 64 mandates that a regulatory structure must be in place to legally sell marijuana at retail by Oct. 1 of this year. While Sands recommended the town take no action before then on that front, there’s an inherent conflict between those coming regulations and the town’s current regulation of medical marijuana grow operations.

“Whether or not the same type of authorization regarding cultivation for personal use will be contained in the regulatory scheme governing recreational marijuana is unclear at this time,” Sands wrote.

The moratorium passed Tuesday night expires on Oct. 1 — deadline day for the statewide retail regulatory structure, as mandated by Amendment 64.

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