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As the legal sale of recreational marijuana continues its second pass on Buena Vista’s radar, a couple matters are clear.

One, it takes a lot of talk – and staff time – to set the course for a revised ordinance. The town is in the process of re-examining its 2016 draft ordinance for recreational cannabis and potentially allowing it via trustee approval. It is also setting the language for a probable Nov. 3 ballot question on a special tax.

The issue was taken up July 7, where on a 4-2 vote, trustees voted to direct staff to move ahead with the development of a proposed ordinance allowing recreational marijuana in town limits. The discussion continues at the Aug. 11 trustees meeting.

And two, there isn’t a lot of space in town – given projected 1,000-foot buffer zones from schools and other marijuana outlets – for retail operations to set up.

Not that Buena Vista is setting up to become Amsterdam West. In all likelihood, the town will allow just two recreational locations and not allow cultivation in town. With Ascend Cannabis, the town’s sole medical marijuana outlet, intending to expand its offerings to include recreational cannabis, that leaves just one slot open. Ascend is located at 204 W. Main St., so if the projected buffer zones are applied, that new slot would likely be on the north end of town in the Highway Commercial zone.

If both recreational and medical “weed” are sold in the same building, the businesses will need to separate those spaces and operate them under separate licenses.

Buena Vista voters said no to recreational cannabis in 2016, but with surrounding towns now selling it, there is concern that those locales are capturing other tourist dollars that would be spent in BV.

As well, according to town administrator Phillip Puckett, recreational marijuana sales could generate roughly $75,000 a year from one or two stores based on the combination of BV’s current sales tax of 2.5 percent and the 10 percent portion of the state recreational marijuana sales taxes. Adding another 5 percent special sales tax to that base could double tax collections. With projects such as parks, infrastructure improvements, and a new fire station on the town’s needs list and with COVID-19 creating an uncertain economy, recreational marijuana is getting another look by the board.

Voters need to approve any additional tax applied to recreational marijuana. At their July 28 meeting, trustees discussed asking for an initial five percent tax, which could be raised over time to 10 percent – or possibly 15 percent – without the town returning to voters with another ask.

The town has reserved a space on Chaffee County’s Nov. 3 combined election and has until Sept. 4 to submit that language. That gives the board of trustees two regular meetings on Aug. 11 and Aug 25 to refine a ballot question.

Other Colorado locales have successfully used the flexible tax for recreational marijuana, and at the July 28 trustees meeting, Mayor Duff Lacy said it was worth consideration. “It’s a good option if you can work that in,” he said. “But always keep in mind that you can price yourself out of business, too.”

With marijuana being, well, marijuana, the town has fielded numerous opinions, from people wanting the economic boost and the convenience of not driving to Salida or Leadville for weed, and from those who want to see Buena Vista remain an oasis without recreational cannabis outlets.

Some want to see the question of allowing recreational cannabis added to the Nov. 3 ballot, and that topic could come up in the two upcoming meetings. Not a proponent of marijuana, Trustee Cindie Swisher said, “I still think it needs to go to a vote of the people.”

“People are definitely chiming in,” Puckett said. “We’ve had phone calls and a good number of emails that were passed to the board. And not all of those people live in town.”

Board member Amy Eckstein said at the July 28 meeting that she’s received considerable feedback from people in favor of adding recreational cannabis to BV’s offerings.

“A lot has changed since 2016,” she said. “There’s a lot of new data out… that’s what’s brought this to the table.”

At the same time, she said, the town needs to be sensitive to those who don’t want to see the regulations change, and “realize this is very difficult for a lot of the public.”

On that note, the board entertained a brief discussion on additional ventures associated with recreational marijuana and decided that the odors associated with cultivation and manufacturing weren’t going to work for Buena Vista. As for delivery services, the board agreed that recreational weed should have a more subtle presence in town and nixed that idea as well.

The board also discussed the appearance of marijuana outlets and stressed that buildings should remain in context with the town’s overall look with neutral tones, meaning no neon or excessively bright colors. As well, signs will require subtle wording without using “cannabis,” “marijuana,” “ganja” or “weed.” Board members acknowledged that most marijuana buyers, using apps such as Weedmaps, usually know where they are going anyway.

Should recreational cannabis get the green light, those wanting to set up shop will go through an extensive application process. The town’s current direction is for qualified applicants to then be placed in a lottery.