Douglas County commissioners to vote on banning commercial pot shops, growing operations

Amend. 64 allows local bans on commercial pot biz

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. - Douglas County commissioners are set to vote next month on a measure prohibiting the commercial sale and growth of marijuana in unincorporated parts of the county, including Highlands Ranch. 

The move is in anticipation of the implementation of Amendment 64, the voter-approved ballot measure legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana in Colorado. It was passed in November.

From marijuana snacks and sodas to traditional plants, Colorado residents can use and possess pot without a medical need starting in January.

"Based on that law, we cannot stop them from having less than an ounce in possession," Douglas County Commissioner Jack Hilbert told 7NEWS.

Yet under the new law, local governments can ban commercial pot shops and growing operations -- and that's exactly what Douglas County commissioners plan to vote on Dec. 18.

"We have chosen to opt out," said Hilbert.

7NEWS has talked to several lawyers who agree the possession part of the law will likely go into effect on time in January.

It's the sale of pot by October 2013 that faces a challenge.

Lawmakers need to establish regulations before pot shops ever open.

Otherwise, each city will have to set their own rules -- creating an uniform patchwork of regulations. 

"It won't be that hard to craft similar regulations, similar to our medical marijuana system, similar to our liquor system," said Josh Kappel, an attorney working with Amendment 64 supporters.

Another possible obstacle: federal authorities could step in to stop retail sales of marijuana -- which remains illegal under federal law.

Amendment 64 backers feel that's unlikely, yet they are prepared.

 "We have talked to legal scholars across the country. We have done our research. This is not a new issue for us," said Kappel.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's office will soon release the details of a state marijuana task force. It's yet-to-be-named members will handle issues concerning the implementation and legality of the pot amendment.