Basalt’s first retail pot store approved, aims for October opening
The Aspen Times
The owners of Basalt’s first retail marijuana store aim to open their operation in the Southside neighborhood sometime in October after securing approval from the Town Council Tuesday night.
The council voted 4-2 to approve a retail marijuana license for a store called Roots RX at 165 Southside Drive. The co-owners are Pete Tramm, of Basalt, and Robert Holmes, of Aspen, who have a company called RFSCB LLC.
The Basalt council lifted a moratorium on retail marijuana operations earlier this year and decided it would issue only two licenses. An application is pending for the second license, according to Police Chief Greg Knott.
The application for Roots RX was approved by Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and council members Bernie Grauer, Rob Leavitt and Herschel Ross. Councilmen Rick Stevens and Mark Kittle opposed granting the license though they didn’t state their reasons.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum wasn’t able to attend.
An audience member who attended the hearing asked if the store complies with town regulations that require a buffer at least 500 feet from a childcare facility, 500 feet from a park and 1,000 feet from a school. Town staff members said the site complies. It also complies with a requirement that no signs be visible for the business along a school route.
The owner of a construction business located next to the store site said there isn’t enough parking for existing business plus the retail operation, but town officials said the site meets Basalt’s code requirements.
Basalt’s attorney, Tom Smith, told the council that the town’s water attorney, Tom Kinney, notified him that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has taken the position that no water it supplies can be used in any way by a marijuana operation. Basalt contracts for water from the reclamation bureau from Ruedi Reservoir.
Roots RX won’t have a grow operation. Its only water use is for a bathroom.
In theory, Smith said, turning on a facet or flushing a toilet at the Roots RX store could put the town’s water contract at risk. However, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office has adopted a hands-off policy with the lawful operation of voter-approved marijuana businesses in Colorado and Washington. Smith said the reclamation bureau is unlikely to single out Basalt’s water contract for litigation. Hundreds of marijuana business exist throughout Colorado that likely use water sources tied to the reclamation bureau, he said.
“I’m not perceiving it as a realistic risk at this point,” Smith told the council.
After a mild case of hand wringing by some council members, the board decided to proceed with a vote on the license application rather than table the issue for further investigation of the water implications.
“My thought is this seems like a pretty far-fetched thing,” Whitsitt said. “It seems crazy to hold this up.”
The board approved the one-year license with a condition that it can reconsider if the operation places its water contract with the reclamation bureau in jeopardy. The license will go through an annual review for renewal, similar to liquor licenses.
Tramm said after the meeting that the store will open as soon as construction to retrofit the interior is completed. He said they will aim for mid-October.
Town residents will vote in November whether to approve a special tax on retail sales of marijuana. During Tuesday’s meeting, it was noted that the tax revenues could potentially be used to enhance preschool education efforts in Basalt. “Stoners for education,” quipped Councilman Ross.
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