When Colorado begins allowing its communities to sell recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, 2014, Pueblo County will be among the first to take the plunge.
The county readied itself for sales by approving zoning requirements for recreational marijuana shops. Previously, commissioners agreed on licensing guidelines.
Commissioners already have limited the number of shops to 10 and will allow only existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana. The county currently has six dispensaries and four in the approval process.
Commissioner Terry Hart said the county's regulations are more strict than they are for liquor stores, but not too strict to discourage business owners from getting involved.
"We tried to strike a balance," he said. "Most of out commercial areas are next to residential areas. We tried to find a compromise. We'll learn and tighten as we go."
Under the zoning restrictions, recreational marijuana shops must be at least 1,000 feet from a school and at least 250 feet from neighborhoods, churches and other facilities.
"We want (shops) to be spread around the county," said Hart. "We don't want them all in one place."
Since the passage of Colorado Amendment 64 made recreational marijuana (possession of up to 1 once for non-medicinal purposes) legal last November, communities have struggled to agree on how to manage and enforce it.
Many communities have declared moratoriums on recreational use or banned it entirely. Others have fine-tuned local ordinances on when, where and how the drug can be used.
Around 60 percent of Pueblo County voters cast ballots for the amendment, one of the biggest margins in the state.