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Vail poised to ban pot

By the numbers

4: Retail marijuana shops in Eagle-Vail.

2: Towns in Eagle County that have retail marijuana shops — Basalt and Eagle.

1: Town in which retail marijuana is allowed ­ (Red Cliff) but no stores are operating.

1: Retail shop each in Eagle and Edwards.

VAIL — The temporary ban on retail marijuana in Vail could be permanent in a matter of weeks.

Just two weeks after the Vail Town Council passed yet another extension of a 2014 moratorium banning marijuana businesses, the council Tuesday night will consider the first reading of a permanent ban. That ban could be overturned by a future town council.

While 2012’s Amendment 64 legalized recreational use and sale of marijuana, the amendment gives towns and counties the ability to impose bans on retail operations. Several towns and counties have taken that step. Locally, retail operations are allowed in unincorporated Eagle County and the town of Eagle. Sales are allowed in Red Cliff, but there have been no applications there.

On the other hand, the amendment passed by significant margins throughout the state. Eagle County voters passed Amendment 64 with roughly 66 percent of the vote.

Vail Town Council member Margaret Rogers has more than once noted a greater percentage of Vail voters cast ballots for Amendment 64 than Eagle County did.

Rogers has also asked for information about how marijuana sales are working in other resort communities. At this point, Vail is the only major ski-resort town in the state that bans retail operations.

IN FAVOR OF THE BAN

However, most people who have addressed the town council on the topic favor banning retail sales and growing operations. There also seems to be a growing council opinion favoring a ban. Mayor Andy Daly and council member Ludwig Kurz have long advocated a permanent ban.

At the July 7 council meeting, council member Dave Chapin proposed a permanent ban, which turned into the request for the ordinance to be heard this week.

The town’s business community seems to favor a ban.

Alison Wadey is the director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association. That group recently conducted a survey to learn what business owners and managers think about retail marijuana in town.

Wadey said 160 surveys were sent out, and 86 were returned. Of those, a majority, but not an overwhelming majority, favored a ban.

“People who weren’t for it had some pretty compelling reasons why (marijuana) shouldn’t be allowed,” Wadey said. Arguments against allowing retail sales in town included a desire to keep Vail ‘classy’ and the belief that the town might lose more customers than it would gain if retail sales were allowed. Wadey said other comments encouraged town officials to not simply follow the example set by other resort towns.

“They’re telling us we need to make a decision based on what’s best for Vail,” Wadey said.

Wadey added that there are several retail stores operating in Eagle-Vail, just a short drive from Vail, so marijuana is easily accessible for guests.

NO SMOKING ACCOMMODATIONS

Even with relatively easy availability, there’s still the issue of where guests or residents can smoke marijuana.

Wadey said lodges in town are sticking to their no-smoking policies, whether people want to smoke a cigar or a joint.

Mike Connolly is the general manager of Triumph Mountain Properties, which manages several vacation rentals in Vail agreed with Wadey that Vail probably doesn’t need retail marijuana sales.

But, he said, a lot of guests coming to Vail ask about the availability of marijuana.

“It’s now become as common to us as whether we can stock a house with groceries or liquor,” Connolly said.

Responding to that interest, Connolly said his company has included information about marijuana in all the concierge books in all its vacation rental properties. In addition, someone from Triumph meets the person who books a home, so that company hasn’t had to ask anyone to leave due to smoking.

“We have had to ask that people not just leave it lying around, though,” Connolly said.

Triumph especially asks for discretion about edibles, many of which come in candy or cookie form.

While all of Triumph’s vacation properties are non-smoking, Connolly said guests have so far respected that restriction.

“We ask our guests to use common sense and be respectful,” Connolly said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.