Council upholds pot license denials
Glenwood Springs City Council upheld the city hearing officer’s denial of two marijuana business licenses that were before council on appeal Thursday night.
After two separate hearings lasting more than four and a half hours total and dragging on until after 1 a.m., council denied the proposed Recreational Releaf Dispensary Bar at 404 10th St., and licenses for the Green Dragon’s proposal to open what would be the city’s first marijuana edibles kitchen and combined retail shop at 919 Grand Ave.
Council agreed to extend its 11 p.m. meeting curfew to consider the Green Dragon appeal and take more public testimony from the nearly 100 people who had gathered for the hearings.
“I have never seen this many people come out for one item before this council like this,” Mayor Mike Gamba said upon council’s 6-1 decision to deny the Releaf application. “I understand the expense and effort these people put into this application, but this decision rests with us.”
A suggestion by some council members to allow the Green Dragon to open just the edibles bakery and manufacturing kitchen without the retail storefront failed on a 4-3 vote. Council then voted 6-1 to deny the retail operation as well, with Councilman Leo McKinney dissenting.
“I think the applicant has demonstrated a need in the community that is not being met,” McKinney said in relation to a local source for marijuana infused products.
The Green Dragon and other marijuana stores on the Western Slope now buy their edibles products from Denver-area outlets.
McKinney also said the city spent many hours crafting local marijuana regulations, and the businesses now being denied were followed those rules that were laid out.
“Denying these licenses to me is unfair,” he said.
Gamba put the blame on the city for leading the Green Dragon in particular astray.
“We created a situation that encouraged you to pursue this application,” Gamba told Green Dragon owner Ron Radtke, who had said he invested over $50,000 in securing and renovating the former restaurant space next to the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue.
“It’s the wrong location for the neighborhood,” Gamba said.
Council ultimately ruled in both cases that the new marijuana businesses did not meet the needs of the neighborhood and the desires of the adult inhabitants of Glenwood Springs.
City hearing officer Angela Roff made her initial decision to deny the applications on those same grounds last month.
The applicants do have until later this month to further appeal their cases in district court, if they choose.
Members of the public offered a variety of opinions on whether the city needs more pot shops. Most, however, were opposed.
Numerous members of the public asked council to uphold Roff’s decisions, although several also spoke in favor of the Green Dragon application, including several of the 30 or so local employees of the current cultivation, retail and medical operation on Devereux Road.
Retired hospital administrator Michael Weergs said he was looking for work in his senior years, and Green Dragon provided an opportunity to put his master gardener certification to work.
“Seniors have a desire for employment choices in this community, but there aren’t a lot of jobs for us,” Weergs said.
Casey Cook, assistant manager for the Green Dragon, said the edibles kitchen would allow the business to locally source its product.
“This is the nation’s fastest growing industry, and the Green Dragon is on the crest of that wave,” Cook said.
Some marijuana users said they are happy with the existing five medical dispensaries and three retail sales outlets for marijuana in Glenwood Springs.
“I do smoke marijuana, it helps with my depression … and I don’t want to demonize marijuana smokers,” Glenwood resident Nicholas Dyl said.
“However, there is not a shortage of marijuana in this town,” he said. “I don’t see the demand (for more shops), we have the supply.”
Stan Speck, who lives on Minter Avenue just a few blocks from the proposed Releaf location, said legal marijuana for recreational use in Colorado is too new to allow the proliferation of too many retail stores.
“I don’t see a line in front of the Green Joint or the Green Dragon,” he said of two existing retail outlets that sell to adults age 21 and over, which became legal last year under Colorado’s Amendment 64.
“I don’t think it’s good for this town to promote pot this way,” Speck said.
Rebecca Nguyen, a young entrepreneur who said she moved to Glenwood Springs to start a technology marketing company centered on the marijuana business, said the market should be allowed to grow and prosper.
“I support the Recreational Releaf and the Green Dragon, because they are the future of my business,” Nguyen said.
John Dyet, one of the proponents of the Recreational Releaf application, agreed that any applicant who follows the city’s code should be allowed to have a business license.
“We followed the code to a ‘t,’ and made sure we were compliant,” Dyet said, presenting petitions with signatures of more than 500 people claiming Glenwood Springs addresses in support of their license.
“Clearly we meet the qualifications,” he said.
Dyet also questioned whether there is an over-saturation of marijuana stores in Glenwood Springs, noting there currently is only one recreational retail outlet located between Seventh and 11th streets.
“This will be a subtle, discreet location,” he said, adding Releaf store will focus on education to teach legal customers how to consume marijuana in a safe manner.
Likewise, Green Dragon’s representatives said they would work to control odors from the 919 Grand location, which was one of the chief concerns for Glenwood Vaudeville owner John Goss, who would share a wall with the marijuana facility.
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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.