Chamber stance helped sway pot license denials
Recent decisions by Glenwood Springs City Council to uphold the city liquor and marijuana licensing official’s denials of two new retail marijuana shops were swayed in part by a formal position statement from the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association board.
“This is a complicated subject involving the will of voters to legalize recreational marijuana; marketplace fairness and free enterprise; the unexpected consequences of marijuana legalization; and the public and social perception of Glenwood Springs as a tourist town because of the proliferation of retail marijuana outlets in our downtown core,” Chamber CEO Marianne Virgili wrote on behalf of the board in a July 1 letter addressed to Mayor Michael Gamba.
Virgili said the chamber’s board weighed the issue prior to the July 2 appeal hearings for the Green Dragon retail store and edibles kitchen on Grand Avenue and the Recreational Releaf Dispensary on 10th Street, and decided to take a stance opposing the requests.
In addition, council members received more than 85 emails from residents, business owners and frequent visitors to the city opposed to the latest license requests, before voting to uphold hearing officer Angela Roff’s denials.
Council members cited those emails and other comments, either on the street, via telephone and at the hearing itself, in rejecting what would have been the only stand-alone retail marijuana outlets not connected to an existing medical dispensary.
“I’ve never seen this many people show up for something like this, or the number of emails we got, not one of them in favor,” Councilor Todd Leahy noted at the hearing before voting to deny the Recreational Releaf application.
Councilor Kathryn Trauger referenced a frequent argument by license applicants and their supporters, which is that more than 60 percent of Glenwood city voters favored Amendment 64 in the 2012 election.
The landmark measure that paved the way for legal possession and retail sales of marijuana for recreational use passed with more than 55 percent of the vote statewide in an election year that saw a more than 70 percent turnout of registered voters statewide.
In spite of the support locally for that measure, “we are elected to represent 100 percent of the city’s residents,” Trauger said in voting to uphold the licensing decision.
The chamber, in its letter recommending City Council deny the new license requests, said the downtown core in particular is not the appropriate place for a large number of retail marijuana stores.
“There has been a lot invested in the downtown by individual property and business owners, the city, the Downtown Development Authority, Colorado Mountain College, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Garfield County …,” Virgili wrote in the letter.
“Investments that include time, money and planning to make our community a desirable place to live, work, play and do business,” she wrote. “As we consider these investments we need to realize the negative effect the addition of more marijuana retail stores has on the visual image of the family-friendly community that we have worked so hard to create.
The chamber board also reiterated its support for the city’s decision to put a 90-day moratorium on new marijuana license applications while council revisits the city’s marijuana licensing and related land-use regulations.
“We appreciate the moratorium and emphasize that this is clearly the time for city council to reevaluate the marijuana sales policy and figure out what is working and what isn’t,” Virgili said in the letter. “We already have numerous retail marijuana outlets downtown – they are so obvious that we do not get inquiries in our visitor center about where and how to purchase marijuana.”
Meanwhile, even though the moratorium is in effect until early September, several marijuana business license requests that were already in process before it was enacted are winding their way through the process.
Last week, Roff heard the request of Martin’s Naturals, an existing medical marijuana dispensary at 216 Sixth St., to expand into retail sales. Roff is to make her decision on that license by Aug. 8.
If denied, that decision could also be appealed to City Council. However, an approval is not subject to appeal under the city’s marijuana licensing rules, which is one of the provisions that will likely be discussed by council as it reviews the regulations.
Council is also slated to hear a land-use proposal at its regular meeting this Thursday by Osiris, LLC to build a new marijuana cultivation facility and retail store at 2150 Devereux Road. The city’s planning and zoning commission, at a June 23 hearing, recommended approval of the facility.
If approved by council, Osiris would be allowed to formally apply with the city for a retail sales license, since its land-use application was filed before the moratorium was enacted.
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A proposed detoxification facility could be partially funded by tobacco taxes collected in Glenwood Springs, following a City Council vote to budget $200,000 for the project in 2022.