Colorado Marijuana News

Rifle City Council to discuss marijuana regs

May 1, 2016 — 

RIFLE — City Council will enter Wednesday poised for an open-ended conversation on the city’s marijuana regulations with the intent of providing some direction to staff on how to proceed.

That direction could range from leaving the current regulations — which ban the retail sale of marijuana and limit the number of cultivation facilities to four — as is, to opening the door to the industry, for which several local business owners and residents have lobbied.

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Five-acre marijuana field proposed in Missouri Heights

April 28, 2016 — 

A ranch that has grown everything from strawberries to potatoes in Missouri Heights for 125 years wants to add cannabis to the list.

A company that received prior approval from Eagle County to build two greenhouses and a drying and processing barn for an indoor marijuana growing operation on Missouri Heights has applied to add 5 acres of outdoor marijuana fields.

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Colorado lawmakers target edible pot in fruit, animal shapes

April 19, 2016 — 

DENVER — Pot-infused lemon drops and other marijuana edibles that resemble fruits could be coming off Colorado shelves, the latest front in a battle by lawmakers to eradicate retail pot products that could appeal to kids.

A committee in the state House of Representatives advanced the bill that also would ban infused edibles shaped like animals or people. Edible pot makers already are preparing for new regulations starting this fall that will require each piece of food to carry a symbol with the letters THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical.

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Marijuana debate re-emerges in Rifle

April 10, 2016 — 

RIFLE — Less than two years after passing a ban on retail marijuana stores and other facilities, City Council could re-evaluate the issue and join the long list of communities across Colorado currently engaged in similar discussions.

Council last week directed staff to put a marijuana-focused discussion on the agenda for its next meeting on April 20. The irony of the meeting being on April 20 or 4/20 — commonly known as the cannabis holiday — was not lost on some councilors.

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Colorado marijuana report shows more revenue, fewer arrests since legalization

April 19, 2016 — 

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Since residents cast their vote for retail marijuana in 2012, Colorado leaders are attempting to measure how the state’s financials, law enforcement and health have been affected. As one of the provisions of Amendment 64, a new study was released by the Colorado Department of Public Safety in an effort to better grasp these trends.

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City's eighth pot dispensary on deck

April 9, 2016 — 

The former owner of The Meatball Shack has submitted an application to open the city’s eighth recreational marijuana dispensary in the downtown core.

Michael Gurtman, who shut down The Meatball Shack last month after four and a half years, said the new dispensary, if approved by the state and city, will be called “Best Day Ever,” and will be located on the second floor of the same building on Cooper Avenue that houses the Silverpeak Apothecary dispensary.

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Parachute voters reject recalls; elect incumbents to town board

April 5, 2016 — 

In an election that some viewed as a barometer of Parachute residents’ opinions on the town’s burgeoning marijuana industry, voters elected to keep six of the officials currently on the seven-member board responsible for opening the door to marijuana businesses.

Voters decisively rejected recall questions for Mayor Roy McClung and Trustees Tim Olk and Tom Rugaard. The also elected Mayor Pro-Tem Juanita Williams and Trustees John Loschke and Travis Sproles to new four-years terms, and tapped newcomer Fred Andersen, who received the second most votes behind Sproles.

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Marijuana moves to mainstream farming

March 26, 2016 — 

Cannabis is beginning to look a lot like a commodity crop.

After spending decades in darkened basements and secreted away on small parcels of land, marijuana growers are commercializing once-illegal plant varieties: industrial hemp, recreational marijuana and medical cannabis.

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Following fatal crash, locals remember former Breckenridge Cannabis Company manager's dedication to the craft

March 27, 2016 — 

A Breckenridge woman who helped guide Backcountry Cannabis Company through the transition into retail, remembered for her constant smile and contagious laugh, died on Wednesday, March 23 after sustaining serious injuries from a car crash. Close friends remember Lauren Hoover as “inspirational” and “full of life,” a woman who made the most of every moment.

“She packed everything into the day. She pretty much lived like everyone should — make every day count — and she did,” Fiancé Brandon Austin said.

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U.S. Supreme Court rejects challenge to Colorado pot law

March 21, 2016 — 

DENVER — Marijuana is a political debate, not a legal one — for now.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it won’t consider a lawsuit filed by two other states challenging Colorado’s pot law. But lawyers say that Nebraska and Oklahoma officials could pursue other legal challenges down the road.

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Carbondale debates tighter marijuana rules

March 20, 2016 — 

Carbondale trustees are weighing the town’s marijuana regulations following complaints about odors from the heavy concentration of marijuana businesses in a neighborhood on the north side of town.

The changes may come in the form of reduced caps for marijuana licenses or expanding the distance marijuana businesses must be from one another.

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Basalt-area pot farm's stink dissipates

February 8, 2016 — 

Today’s first-ever quarterly meeting to discuss the stinky odors coming from a Basalt-area marijuana-growing facility may be a quick and quiet affair.

That’s because the skunklike marijuana smell coming from High Valley Farms that so incensed residents of the Holland Hills subdivision last summer appears to have dissipated, according to Pitkin County documents.

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New retail marijuana shop opens in Eagle-Vail

January 20, 2016 — 

EAGLE-VAIL — A new recreational marijuana shop, High Country Healing, has opened on the “Green Mile” along U.S. Highway 6.

The shop will hold a grand opening celebration Jan. 22 with food, live music and specials throughout the store. Together with a local development company, the shop is next to the Route 6 Café in Eagle-Vail.

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Can the pot industry one day rival skiing?

January 20, 2016 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — Skiing is king in the Vail Valley — always has been. But will it always be so?

Winter sports will probably always dominate the Vail Valley’s economy. Despite years of effort, the town of Vail collects about 70 percent of its annual sales taxes during the ski season. That could change in the future, and perhaps the near future.

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Council upholds license approvals for Osiris pot grow

November 19, 2015 — 

The last of a series of marijuana business applications to go through the former city of Glenwood Springs licensing review process before new rules were enacted this summer got the green light to proceed from City Council Thursday night.

Council voted 6-1 to uphold city licensing officer Angela Roff’s decision last month to grant licenses for Osiris LLC to operate a cultivation, manufacturing and retail marijuana sales facility at 2150 Devereux Road.

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Voters approve letting state keep $66 million in pot taxes

November 4, 2015 — 

DENVER — Colorado voters agreed Tuesday to allow the state to keep $66 million worth of marijuana taxes despite an accounting error that could have forced the state to refund the money to taxpayers and pot growers.

An accounting error in a pot tax measure approved two years ago led to the proposition. An inaccurate tax projection required the state to ask voters again if it could keep the revenue collected last year from a 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax on recreational pot.

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Chamber, library file joint appeal of pot shop OK

October 16, 2015 — 

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Garfield County Public Library District have teamed up to appeal the recent city decision to grant a license for a new downtown marijuana shop.

The chamber and library boards on Friday issued an appeal to Glenwood Springs City Council regarding license hearing officer Angela Roff’s Oct. 9 decision to approve the Kind Castle retail marijuana store at 818 Grand Ave.

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Group sues Parachute over pot decision

October 15, 2015 — 

PARACHUTE — Town officials, business owners and residents vocally fired back Thursday night against the opposition movement that filed a lawsuit and paperwork to recall four trustees over an earlier decision to repeal the town’s ban on marijuana establishments.

Since that decision in June, opponents and supporters have flooded the historically sparsely attended trustee meetings. In sharp contrast to those recent meetings, though, the majority of public comment came from people either supporting the decision directly or the trustees for their service on the board.

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New downtown, Devereux pot shops OK'd

October 12, 2015 — 

In a surprise decision given recent denials of two downtown Glenwood Springs marijuana shops due to neighborhood opposition, the city’s hearing officer has approved a new recreational pot store in the 800 block of Grand Avenue.

In addition to giving the OK to a retail marijuana license for the Kind Castle at 818 Grand Ave., hearing officer Angela Roff also granted licenses for Osiris LLC to operate a marijuana cultivation, infused products manufacturing and retail sales facility at 2150 Devereux Road.

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Editorial: A fickle, puzzling marijuana shop decision

October 12, 2015 — 

OK, let’s get this straight. If that’s possible.

The needs and desires of the adult inhabitants of Glenwood Springs, as city hearing officer Angela Roff interpreted them in June, led her to deny licenses to two recreational marijuana stores proposed for downtown. One store, which drew the most opposition, was planned for 919 Grand Ave., next to the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue. The other would have been at 404 10th St., a block off of Grand.

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New owner keeps Green Dragon pot shop name

September 21, 2015 — 

A Denver-based cannabis company that purchased the Green Dragon locations in Glenwood Springs and Aspen last week likes the name and logo so much it plans to bring all of its Colorado stores under the newly acquired name.

“We believe that the adoption of this name gives us a unique branding opportunity,” said Ryan Milligan, president of Greenwerkz, which opened the first retail marijuana shop in Glenwood Springs last year on South Glen Avenue shortly before the Green Dragon and another operator, the Green Joint, won their approvals to open shop.

All three businesses had operated as medical marijuana dispensaries prior to state voter approval of Amendment 64 in 2012, which opened the door to legalizing marijuana for recreational sales.

The reported $8 million purchase of the Green Dragon by Greenwerkz includes a 16,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility and adjoining retail store and medical dispensary at 1420 Devereux Road in Glenwood Springs.

“By having two stores on both sides of town, we are effectively able to serve the entire Glenwood Springs market and the surrounding cities in the valley,” Milligan said in a news release.

Greenwerkz now has five stores in Colorado, including locations in Denver and Edgewater. The deal also included the Green Dragon retail and medical dispensary in downtown Aspen that was started by founding owner Ron Radtke.

The buyout did result in the layoff and subsequent rehiring of some of the former Green Dragon’s 30 or so employees. Milligan said some of those employees were not asked back.

“We did have to make some difficult decisions, as anyone has to do in a business acquisition,” Milligan told the Post Independent. “We are a rapidly expanding company, so that’s not to say we couldn’t take a second look at some of those people.”

Renovations are under way at the Devereux Road location, and Milligan said he expects the store to reopen soon. The Aspen store has already seen some modifications and has reopened, he said.

The South Glen store also underwent some renovations recently, including the installation of a new “bud bar,” or customer counter, same as the one at Greenwerkz’s new flagship store in Denver.

“Customers can see and smell product via an innovative and safe delivery system before they buy,” Milligan said in the release.

With the new Glenwood and Aspen acquisitions, he said customers can also expect additional product options, including high-Cannabidiol, low THC bud. The new Green Dragon is looking at other expansion opportunities in the state as well, Milligan said.

High Valley Farms lives to grow another year

September 23, 2015 — 

Jordan Lewis said he was “literally betting the farm” on his pot-growing facility near Basalt. The gamble paid off — for the time being at least.

Pitkin County commissioners voted 4-1 Wednesday to renew separate, one-year licenses for High Valley Farms, which is co-owned by Lewis and is the cannabis supplier to Silverpeak Apothecary in Aspen and other marijuana dispensaries in Colorado.

The approval comes with conditions that relate to the farm’s skunk-like pot smell that compelled nearby residents to urge commissioners to revoke the licenses.

Commissioners cautioned Lewis and his associates that they can revoke or suspend the licenses for the entire facility, or portions of it, with just 10 days notice if the stenches persist.

“We won’t tolerate another lost summer,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley, referring to the ongoing complaints from residents who said the smell was so pungent they couldn’t enjoy time outdoors in their neighborhoods, while they kept their home windows shut because of the stench and health concerns.

High Valley Farms also must pay the county for a third party that would monitor the odors. The county would hire the independent party to monitor the greenhouses without influence from High Valley Farms.

Additionally, High Valley Farms is required to meet with commissioners on a quarterly basis until they no longer deem it necessary.

Lewis said a new carbon-filtration system has been online for eight days at one of the greenhouses and the smell has been tamed. Each of the four greenhouses will have its own filtration system. The seven-figure investment was Lewis’ ninth-inning bid to get in the good graces of commissioners, who told him at previous meetings that his licenses wouldn’t be renewed when they expired Sept. 24 if the smell remained.

“I’m very pleased to come before the board today and let you know we have solved the odor problem,” he said, apologizing to the farm’s neighbors, the commissioners and his own family.

“This is not going to repeat itself in the future,” he said.

Lewis still has three greenhouses that currently aren’t operational because of the potential for odors. All four greenhouses were working earlier this year, but after other smell-mitigation systems failed to fix the problem, he scaled back operations.

George Newman, the dissenting commissioner, wished Lewis luck but said he couldn’t vote to renew the licenses because he believes the farm is located too close to residential areas and the 25,000-square-foot facility is too large and out of character with the area.

OVERFLOW CROWD DIVIDED

The commissioners’ approval of both the retail cultivation and medical marijuana cultivation licenses came at a meeting that saw a spillover crowd of champions and opponents of the four-greenhouse facility, located at 24350 Highway 82 next to the Roaring Fork Club and across the road from the Holland Hills subdivision. After nearly 31/2 hours of meeting downstairs at Aspen City Hall, which the county borrowed because it didn’t have enough space in its boardroom, the hearing was relocated to the county building.

The community mood about High Valley Farms has been seemingly mixed. Nearby residents have been complaining that the farm has emitted skunk-like pot smells since it began growing earlier this year. Some said their property values are threatened by the smells.

They had been vocal at previous county meetings about High Valley Farms, which had little public support.

But in recent weeks, High Valley Farms employees had been rallying to get the license renewed, and they showed up in earnest at Wednesday’s hearing. Their common theme: High Valley Farms and Silverpeak are excellent, professional employers and have been on the forefront of public education and outreach about legalized marijuana. Some also contended that a small minority of residents was wielding too much clout about the future of a startup business in a pioneer industry.

One part-time employee, Larry Jordan, wore a Bob Marley T-shirt, his hair down to his waist.

“Yes, I do have long hair, but I don’t smoke pot; I don’t drink,” he said. “I attend the Christ Community Church.”

Jordan said High Valley Farms, which staffs 75, treats its employees well and pays better than other large employers such as City Market and Whole Foods. He and other workers said they have been incorrectly and unfairly stereotyped as potheads.

But others in attendance, such as Bronwyn Anglin, vice president of the Holland Hills Homeowners Association, said Lewis has not been a good neighbor, and she accused two local writers of intimidating residents into not speaking out against the farm. Other neighbors said they don’t like being the subject of the “experiment” by High Valley Farms.

“It’s about smell and nothing else, no matter what the newspapers may print from time to time,” said Kent Schuler of Holland Hills.

Despite the differences among crowd members, they struck a civil tone without the boos or hisses that came at another recent meeting.

“I don’t think there’s a lot to say here by saying, ‘Here you go — you’re out of business,’” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “That’s your punishment. ... I think it’s about correcting the problem.”

Commissioner Steve Child, noting that 75 percent of county residents voted in favor of Amendment 64 in 2012, added he would prefer that county marijuana merchants grow their own pot rather than having it shipped in from Denver.

Commissioner Patti Clapper said the community should be mindful that there are other cannabis growers in the area who could be contributing to the smell.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Shops expect big crowds for tax holiday

September 13, 2015 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — Marijuana enthusiasts can add one more holiday to their calendars. On Sept. 16, recreational pot will be sold without state-added taxes.

Those taxes were approved by voters in 2013, a year after the state approved a constitutional amendment legalizing the possession and retail sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. Since revenue has exceeded projections in the ballot measure, refunds are being given in the form of a one-day price break.

Getting ready for the tax holiday is keeping local shops busy, since they expect more business — after all, pot will be discounted.

“We’ll be doing some sort of special,” Roots Rx store manager Zeb Klapperich said, adding that the Eagle-Vail shop expects to

At Sweet Leaf Pioneer in Eagle, store manager Chris Kuchler is also getting ready for a big day. While state taxes are already added to the price of raw pot, known as “bud,” prices for processed items such as edibles and creams don’t have the tax added. That’s going to require some tinkering with the store’s point-of-sale systems. All sales must be documented, but only sales, not individual buyers, are tracked.

How big are the savings? Kuchler said a $50 item would be $5 less Wednesday.

Kuchler said he expects the price break to result in some additional buying.

“You’ll probably get someone who usually buys a quarter-ounce buy twice as much — who doesn’t like to save money?,” he said.

And, while state law limits state residents to buy no more than one ounce at a time — possession is also limited to an ounce or less — Klapperich said people might want to buy more than one ounce in separate transactions.

The tax holiday might also encourage people to experiment.

Mandy Melby is a spokesperson for Native Roots, which currently has 12 retail or medical stores around the state, including Eagle-Vail. Melby said the kind of pot many Baby Boomers are familiar with is just part of what’s available in the store.

“Our inventory includes elixirs, edibles and other products,” Melby said. “People who have never tried those before might want to see what those are all about.”

Similarly, people who know what they like may want to stock up.

Whether “9/16” replaces “4/20” as pot enthusiasts’ favorite set of numbers remains to be seen. Future tax holidays depend on whether tax collections continue to exceed limits set in the 2013 ballot issue. If the industry continues to grow, Sept. 16 may become an annual event.

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

Marijuana dispensary burglar takes hash, leaves cash

September 1, 2015 — 

A Wyoming man is in custody after allegedly breaking into a dispensary and stealing $6,750 worth of marijuana from the safe last month.

Rifle police responded to a report of a burglary at Rifle Mountain Dispensary on Aug. 2 to find a half-empty safe, several piles of spilled marijuana, a security camera that had apparently been pulled from the ceiling and thrown in a nearby trash can, and a single Newport cigarette butt.

The intruder had, according to the arrest affidavit, apparently entered through a window and managed to pry open the bottom of the safe, accessing about 5.5 pounds of marijuana as well as an array of edibles, seeds, patches and hashish. The cash bag, which was out of reach in the separately locked top of the safe, was not taken.

After reviewing surveillance footage and sharing photos of the suspect, police got a tip that the burglar might be Joseph Keele, 37, of Riverton, Wyoming. According to his arrest affidavit, Keele had several run-ins with Riverton Police before he was arrested for petty theft in Rifle in April.

A warrant was issued for Keele’s arrest on suspicion of felony burglary of a controlled substance and felony theft, and Rifle police caught up with him early Tuesday morning.

Additional charges may be added to the case, Rifle Police Sgt. Mike Tyler said.

According to Tyler, Keele does not appear to have been actively trying to sell any of the marijuana in his possession.

“At this point, I don’t believe that was the primary focus,” Tyler said.

Tyler noted that while the controlled substance theft was an added element, the Rifle Police Department takes every burglary seriously.

Management at Rifle Mountain Dispensary could not be reached for comment.

Council gives final OK to new pot business rules

August 21, 2015 — 

The city of Glenwood Springs has completed new rules for marijuana businesses, including the addition of a special-use review and hearing process, and an expanded 900-foot setback between retail pot shops and related businesses.

City Council on Thursday approved the amended ordinance without any further discussion or public comment. The issue was aired during an Aug. 6 public hearing when council agreed to the new rules on first reading.

The amended ordinance officially hits the books in 10 days, just as a three-month moratorium on new retail and medical marijuana licenses and land-use applications is set to expire on Sept. 1.

The revisions are in reaction to public concerns about the potential proliferation of marijuana shops in the downtown core under the former rules, as several new license applications have been making their way through the process.

Since the moratorium was put in place in early June, two requests for new retail shops in the downtown area, including one next to the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue that would have included a marijuana edibles bakery, were denied by the city’s license hearing officer, Angela Roff.

Roff ruled in both cases that the needs of the city’s adult inhabitants were already being met by the three existing recreational retail marijuana shops and five medical dispensaries in town. Those decisions were upheld on appeal to City Council during a lengthy July 2 hearing.

A third retail license application that came in before the moratorium went into effect was approved by Roff two weeks ago. Rather than establishing a new business, that decision converted the existing Martin’s Medicinals at 216 Sixth St. from medical to recreational sales.

Under the new rules, the more discretionary special review process would involve public hearings before both the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council. It would replace the current administrative process using the hearing officer to decide on new retail and medical marijuana establishments.

Once issued under the new review process, annual license renewals would still be handled by the hearing officer.

The new 900-foot distance separation between establishments effectively limits the number of shops in the downtown area along Grand Avenue from Sixth to 11th streets to those already in place.

It’s a change from the 325-foot setback that has been on the books since the city adopted its recreational marijuana regulations in late 2013.

The greater distance requirement does leave the door open for new establishments in areas outside of the downtown core, including West Glenwood and the area south of Sayre Park. A 500-foot setback from K-12 schools remains on the books.

With the previous rules, only marijuana cultivation facilities, which are limited to the city’s single industrial zone district along Devereux Road, had to go through a land-use hearing process.

The new special review for any new marijuana business location is to include the licensing application as well.

At the Aug. 6 hearing, council rejected one option that would have banned new marijuana businesses altogether within the Downtown Development Authority boundaries.

That would have rendered three existing businesses located between Sixth and 11th streets as nonconforming, meaning those businesses would not have been able to expand or change hands.

Meanwhile, at least two retail marijuana license applications that were already in process before the moratorium went into effect are still pending hearings before Roff in September or October.

Those include the Osiris retail store on Devereux Road, which won land-use approval last month for the marijuana cultivation portion of the business, and the proposed “Kindology” retail shop at 818 Grand Ave.

Approval granted for Green Dragon to change hands

August 12, 2015 — 

A Denver-based cannabis company that already owns a retail and medical marijuana operation in Glenwood Springs won local approval Wednesday to acquire the Green Dragon’s local holdings.

Greenwerkz already received approval in May from Aspen’s licensing authority for a transfer of ownership involving the Green Dragon retail store and medical dispensary in Aspen.

That was the first step in the pending $8 million sale that would include the Green Dragon’s retail, medical and cultivation operation on Devereux Road in Glenwood Springs as well.

Greenwerkz already operates seven recreational shops and nine medical shops throughout Colorado, including one at 2922 S. Glen Ave. in Glenwood Springs.

Following a brief hearing Wednesday with no one opposed to the transaction, Glenwood Springs’ marijuana and liquor licensing official Angela Roff OK’d transfer of the retail licenses. A separate “paper review” of the medical marijuana license transfer is still pending, but is expected to be completed by week’s end, Roff said.

That leaves only the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees marijuana operations in the state, to approve the deal, Greenwerkz co-owner Ryan Milligan said.

The sale will include Green Dragon’s medical and recreational cultivation facility and dispensary at 1420 Devereux Road. Green Dragon settled on that location for its primary growing operations last summer after failing to win approval for a cultivation facility in Pitkin County.

The operation’s Aspen retail shop and medical dispensary is located at 409 E. Hyman Ave. Like the Glenwood location, it would continue to operate as a dual medical-recreational retailer serving customers 21 and older.

The pending sale would involve a $7.25 million loan from Andrew Levine, a Denver friend who Milligan told the Aspen Times earlier this year he has collaborated with on past real estate transactions.

According to Aspen Times reports, Levin will collect interest on the loan, but it does not include any ownership rights of Green Dragon.

Milligan reiterated on Wednesday that he does not anticipate making any changes in the managerial staff currently working for Green Dragon owner Ron Radtke.

As for Radtke, he said after the Wednesday license transfer hearing that this will mean “retirement” for him.

Radtke was one of the pioneers in establishing the medical marijuana trade in Glenwood Springs, first opening the Green Essentials dispensary in the 1400 block of Grand Avenue, before moving it to the 400 block of 10th Street and eventually to Devereux Road last year after he obtained a license to sell on the recreational market as well.

Radtke and the Green Dragon lost their bid earlier this summer to open a second retail location and what would have been Glenwood Springs’ only marijuana edibles bakery at 919 Grand Ave. following public outcry about new marijuana shops in the downtown core.

The Green Dragon lost its appeal of Roff’s decision to City Council during a lengthy July 2 hearing, as did another proposed retail operator, Recreational Releaf, which has proposed to open a retail shop in the former Green Essentials storefront on 10th Street.

Radtke said he initially prepared a request to Garfield District Court to reconsider the rejected retail license, but has since withdrawn that request.

Meanwhile, Glenwood City Council is nearing the end of a 90-day moratorium on new marijuana license and land-use applications in anticipation of adopting new regulatory measures aimed at controlling the proliferation of marijuana businesses in town.

Under the new rules, any new marijuana business would have to go through a special-use review before both the city Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council. Businesses must also now be separated by at least 900 feet, rather than 325 feet under the existing rules.

City Council is slated to give final consideration to the new regulations at its Aug. 20 meeting.

Glenwood moves to toughen pot shop rules

August 9, 2015 — 

New marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs will face a special planning review to make sure the proposed location is suitable, and will have to be separated by at least 900 feet.

Those are the new rules that won initial approval Thursday night on a 6-1 vote by Glenwood Springs City Council.

Council’s action, which will be considered on second and final reading Aug. 20, would amend the city’s retail and medical marijuana codes, adding the new land-use review and revised setback provisions.

Under the new special permit process, public hearings would be held before the Glenwood Planning and Zoning Commission for recommendation, but City Council would hold the final decision.

The location permit and license to do business would be dealt with as part of the same application, city attorney Karl Hanlon explained.

The more discretionary permit process would replace the current process of having the city license hearing officer review new retail and medical marijuana establishments. Annual license renewals would still be handled by the hearing officer.

Currently, only marijuana cultivation facilities, which are limited to the city’s single industrial zone district along Devereux Road, must go through a land-use hearing process.

In addition, council agreed to increase the required setback between marijuana stores or dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing facilities from 325 feet under the current rules to 900 feet.

That change would allow all existing marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs to continue as is and keep the door open for new establishments in the fringes of town, but would effectively prevent any new shops in the downtown core.

ADDRESSING PUBLIC CONCERNS

That was one of the concerns expressed by the public and other downtown business owners when council decided in late May to impose a 90-day moratorium on new license applications while the regulations were reviewed.

Council looked at three options for code revisions before settling on the greater setback and combined new review process.

“I think we would be setting ourselves up for what happened the last time if we don’t combine them,” Councilman Todd Leahy said in reference to a lengthy July 2 hearing when council upheld on appeal license hearing officer Angela Roff’s rejection of two retail license applications.

That meeting dragged on until 1:30 a.m., well past council’s usual 11 p.m. curfew.

“I don’t want to have a repeat of that,” Leahy said. “This does add another layer of bureaucracy, but it gives the town what it’s looking for.”

Council opted to reject a third option that would have banned new marijuana businesses altogether within the Downtown Development Authority boundaries, and render three existing businesses in that area as non-conforming.

One of those businesses would be the Green Joint retail store and Green Medicine Wellness medical dispensary located at 11th and Grand; a prospect that owner Dan Sullivan said was “not an option.”

‘UNACCEPTABLE’

While existing businesses can continue even if they don’t conform to newly adopted rules, any sale of the business or major modification to the premises would not be allowed.

“We have six years of blood, sweat and tears in this business, and to then face the possibility that we would not have a business? That’s unacceptable,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also lobbied for the city to separately consider imposing an extra local sales or excise tax on recreational marijuana sales to help generate new revenues for the city. Any local tax on the marijuana trade would require a city vote at a regular election.

Council members reiterated that was not their intention in revisiting the rules to put existing businesses at risk.

“This is a really good option, and gives us discretion in what goes where while considering the needs of the neighborhood,” Councilwoman Kathryn Trauger said.

“I also like that it’s legally defensible,” she said of a concern that has been expressed about the current marijuana license application and review process.

Councilman Matt Steckler objected to including the new permit review and voted against the amended ordinance, but said he could go along with the greater setback provision.

Glenwood moves to toughen pot shop rules

August 7, 2015 — 

New marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs will face a special planning review to make sure the proposed location is suitable, and will have to be separated by at least 900 feet.

Those are the new rules that won initial approval Thursday night on a 6-1 vote by Glenwood Springs City Council.

Council’s action, which will be considered on second and final reading Aug. 20, would amend the city’s retail and medical marijuana codes, adding the new land-use review and revised setback provisions.

Under the new special permit process, public hearings would be held before the Glenwood Planning and Zoning Commission for recommendation, but City Council would hold the final decision.

The location permit and license to do business would be dealt with as part of the same application, city attorney Karl Hanlon explained.

The more discretionary permit process would replace the current process of having the city license hearing officer review new retail and medical marijuana establishments. Annual license renewals would still be handled by the hearing officer.

Currently, only marijuana cultivation facilities, which are limited to the city’s single industrial zone district along Devereux Road, must go through a land-use hearing process.

In addition, council agreed to increase the required setback between marijuana stores or dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing facilities from 325 feet under the current rules to 900 feet.

That change would allow all existing marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs to continue as is and keep the door open for new establishments in the fringes of town, but would effectively prevent any new shops in the downtown core.

ADDRESSING PUBLIC CONCERNS

That was one of the concerns expressed by the public and other downtown business owners when council decided in late May to impose a 90-day moratorium on new license applications while the regulations were reviewed.

Council looked at three options for code revisions before settling on the greater setback and combined new review process.

“I think we would be setting ourselves up for what happened the last time if we don’t combine them,” Councilman Todd Leahy said in reference to a lengthy July 2 hearing when council upheld on appeal license hearing officer Angela Roff’s rejection of two retail license applications.

That meeting dragged on until 1:30 a.m., well past council’s usual 11 p.m. curfew.

“I don’t want to have a repeat of that,” Leahy said. “This does add another layer of bureaucracy, but it gives the town what it’s looking for.”

Council opted to reject a third option that would have banned new marijuana businesses altogether within the Downtown Development Authority boundaries, and render three existing businesses in that area as non-conforming.

One of those businesses would be the Green Joint retail store and Green Medicine Wellness medical dispensary located at 11th and Grand; a prospect that owner Dan Sullivan said was “not an option.”

‘UNACCEPTABLE’

While existing businesses can continue even if they don’t conform to newly adopted rules, any sale of the business or major modification to the premises would not be allowed.

“We have six years of blood, sweat and tears in this business, and to then face the possibility that we would not have a business? That’s unacceptable,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also lobbied for the city to separately consider imposing an extra local sales or excise tax on recreational marijuana sales to help generate new revenues for the city. Any local tax on the marijuana trade would require a city vote at a regular election.

Council members reiterated that was not their intention in revisiting the rules to put existing businesses at risk.

“This is a really good option, and gives us discretion in what goes where while considering the needs of the neighborhood,” Councilwoman Kathryn Trauger said.

“I also like that it’s legally defensible,” she said of a concern that has been expressed about the current marijuana license application and review process.

Councilman Matt Steckler objected to including the new permit review and voted against the amended ordinance, but said he could go along with the greater setback provision.

Council set to weigh pot rule revisions

August 6, 2015 — 

A ban on new marijuana businesses in the downtown core, a special permit review that would involve the city’s planning commission and a greatly increased 900-foot setback between shops are among options before Glenwood Springs City Council this Thursday.

The options were among the ideas discussed at a council work session in early July regarding possible revisions to the city’s existing licensing and land-use regulations for retail and medical marijuana businesses.

Council is set to consider on first reading an amended ordinance making one or more of the various rules changes that have since been refined by city staff, according to Community Development Director Andrew McGregor.

A change in the required distance between marijuana establishments from the existing setback of 325 feet is the one rules fix that gained the most support from council after it imposed a 90-day moratorium on new marijuana license and land-use applications in late May.

The moratorium was in response to public concerns about a proliferation of new retail marijuana license applications in the downtown area between Sixth and 10th streets.

A change to 900 feet in the minimum setback from one business to another would allow existing facilities to remain, but would preclude any new businesses in the downtown area, McGregor said in a memo to council for the Thursday meeting.

“No existing uses would be rendered nonconforming,” he said of one of the concerns expressed by council members in changing the rules with businesses already in place.

One proposed new retail shop at 818 Grand Ave. that is slated for a license hearing next month would, however, be nonconforming if it gets approved, he said.

Changing the setback has its pluses in achieving council’s goals, McGregor indicated, by maintaining the status quo in the downtown area and north Glenwood while keeping opportunities open for south and west Glenwood areas.

The other two options up for consideration, including a ban on any marijuana businesses within the designated boundaries of the Downtown Development Authority, or a full special-use permit review for new proposals, would be far more limiting.

A ban in the downtown core would render several existing businesses, including two medical marijuana dispensaries and the Green Joint/Green Medicine Wellness retail and medical facility, as nonconforming.

That would mean they may not be allowed a license renewal or transfer of ownership if any major changes are made to the respective businesses.

“This option might have merit if there is a perception that marijuana sales are not compatible with our most concentrated tourist and hospitality area of the city,” McGregor wrote in his memo.

A special-use permit for marijuana businesses would add an extra, more discretionary layer of regulatory review through a formal public hearing process, he noted.

Such a permit would have to be considered by the city’s planning and zoning commission, whose decision could be appealed to City Council.

Though a more public process that is “legally defensible,” and one used by numerous other communities in Colorado that have allowed sales of retail marijuana, it does increase the time and cost needed for new businesses to gain their approvals, McGregor noted.

“It does become a discretionary process, thus reducing certainty and predictability on behalf of the prospective business owner,” he said in his memo.

When the moratorium on new marijuana licenses was put in place, council decided not to have it apply to pending applications, several of which were already in the pipeline at the time.

Since then, two new license requests, including one that would have included a marijuana edibles kitchen, have been denied by the city’s license hearing official. Those decisions were upheld on appeal by City Council in early July.

One other new retail license decision is expected this week, and two additional applications that were already in process are pending formal hearings on Aug. 12 and Sept. 9.

Vail poised to ban pot

July 20, 2015 — 

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.

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