The Dolores Board of Trustees has extended a ban on retail marijuana sales set to expire this month to give them more time to study the issue.
In a 6-1 vote Monday, trustees agreed to continue the ban for a year and set a March deadline for town staff to determine what additional administrative and enforcement costs the town could incur if they allowed the sales. Trustee Jen Stark voted against the measure.
Dolores has several options moving forward.
Once potential costs, zoning, and additional regulations are better understood, the board could vote on whether to allow retail marijuana sales.
The matter also could be put to a town vote, but it could not be put on the ballot until the next general election in 2020.
If sales were allowed, board members said they would support a specific transaction fee on every marijuana sale to cover additional administrative and code enforcement costs.
But a transaction fee must be approved by voters, and the board discussed putting the question on the ballot to help them decide whether shops should be allowed.
The fee would be in addition to sales tax revenues generated by marijuana sales in town. The transaction fee and additional sales tax could go into the general fund or be earmarked for certain costs or projects.
“Sounds like the transaction fee is a key part of this decision,” Stark said.
Mancos allows retail marijuana, and voters approved a $3 transaction fee on each sale to help cover administration and enforcement costs. The additional sales taxes help pay for infrastructure costs of the town, according to Mancos officials.
An estimate of additional overhead costs is possible, said Dolores Town Manager Jay Ruybalid. But trying to guess how much additional sales tax and fees a retail shop would generate for Dolores would be more difficult.
The board has held two well-attended public meetings on the issue and heard both support and opposition for the business. This is the second time since the moratorium was put in place in 2014 that it has been extended.
Recent turnover on the board and town staff has caused a delay on the decision, officials said, prompting the extension.
Mayor Chad Wheelus said the decision was difficult. He is pro-business, but he said retail marijuana presents a unique challenge because of additional costs for small towns. On the other hand, “small towns are struggling and need to find ways to stay viable into the future,” Wheelus said.
Trustee Melissa Watters said determining where marijuana shops could go in town needs to be established “before moving forward.”
“We need more time to study if it will be worthwhile,” said trustee Val Truelsen. “We can repeal the ordinance if necessary.”
Dolores had two medical marijuana stores before recreational marijuana was passed in 2012.