The town board inched closer to permitting recreational marijuana sales at a meeting on May 28, voicing approval of more fine-tuned regulations.
The town's moratorium on recreational marijuana will expire June 30, and depending on public's response, the town may have all the regulations in place by mid-July. It's mainly delayed by public hearings required to change the land-use code.
"Every month we wait, it costs the town revenues," Trustee Will Stone said.
The board members voiced approval of proposed longer hours, a clarified fee structure and introducing more oversight into business practices.
The proposed hours for the marijuana shops are now 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The shops will also be allowed to carry pipes.
The fee structure now states that any new retail marijuana establishment will have to pay $3,000 for the first year for the first business license. Any additional licenses will be $1,000 for the first year. The renewal fee will be $2,000 for all licenses.
The regulations will also allow for a marijuana business to be sold and a license transferred as long as the new owners pass background checks.
The town will also hold a hearing on whether to approve the application for a transfer of ownership. The new ownership must also pay all town costs of investigating and noticing the application for transfer, according to the proposed rules
Most of these changes were made after two current owners of Beacon Wellness - Nate Fete and Jim Cody - questioned the board on May 14. The two have said they intend to expand their medical marijuana operations to include recreational products.
Proposed employee license fees are also set at a flat fee of $10, and the fee for a license is set at $100. In addition, employees must pay the town for a criminal background check and fingerprinting, which cost $49.50, said Town Clerk Heather Alvarez.
A town resident, Gina Roberts, voiced concern that the town was duplicating state licensing regulations at the meeting.
"Why does the town feel they are better-equipped to issue occupational licenses than the state?" she asked.
The state requires a $75 application fee, a background check and an interview in Colorado Springs or Denver.
Roberts went on to say she felt the duplication was discriminatory.
Marshal John Cox said he had not been impressed with the state's oversight because the state inspector hasn't yet inspected Beacon Wellness and doesn't plan to.
He said he would be happy to conduct background checks on employees, and the board supported the marshal.
"I see this as us doing the best we can with something that is very new," said Trustee Todd Kearns.
One trustee voiced concerns about lack of clear structure about the town's ability to oversee an operational retail marijuana store.
"It says that we have the leeway to revoke a license, but it's not terribly clear in my mind as to how or why," Trustee Michele Black said.
Town attorney David Liberman advised that the town board mirror state regulations concerning audits of books and records.
The board members directed Liberman and Town Administrator Andrea Phillips to include the additional regulations.
They may vote on the new ordinance at the next town board meeting. The moratorium on retail marijuana in Cortez was recently extended until the end of the year.