Downtown pot store plans stir concerns

The Green Dragon proposed opening a new retail marijuana outlet and edibles kitchen at 919 Grand Ave., left, next to the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue theater.
John Stroud | Post Independent

The prospect of two new retail marijuana shops in downtown Glenwood Springs, and possibly more on the way, is raising concerns about the impact on the city’s family-oriented tourism base.

Two recreational pot shops, one of which would be located next to the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue theater on Grand Avenue and is to include a marijuana edibles manufacturing kitchen, are before the city’s license hearing officer this afternoon.

Operators of the Green Dragon on Devereux Road propose to open a second retail outlet at 919 Grand, formerly home to the Bayou restaurant, for sales to those age 21 and older. A second license is sought for marijuana products manufacturing at the same location.

Meanwhile, a second retail store application being considered at today’s hearing is for the Recreational Releaf Dispensary Bar at 404 10th St.

“We will be making cookies, yes, but it will smell like cookies.”Jeff Kennedy

“My main thought is, what is it we’re trying to represent to our tourists and the families that we attract here when the first thing they see are a bunch of pot shops and paraphernalia stores?” said John Goss, Vaudeville Revue owner and actor.

As a business owner, he is also worried about odors from the marijuana operation finding their way into the theater, which shares a wall with the proposed new sales and manufacturing outlet.

“Our performers need to be able to breathe and to sing strong, and I am worried what kind of effect that might have,” Goss said.

In addition to the two proposals before licensing officer Angela Roff today, two additional applications for new retail marijuana shops in the downtown core are being reviewed by city officials.

It’s enough of a broader concern that an online petition has started among those opposed to the latest proposals. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, there were 195 signatures collected and numerous comments posted to the survey page.

But any fears about the Green Dragon’s plans for 919 Grand should be put to rest at the hearing, said Jeff Kennedy, manager at the current Green Dragon and Green Essentials medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility on Devereux.

“This isn’t a grow operation,” Kennedy said of the part of the business that is more prone to pungent odors. “The store does have some odor, but it’s contained inside the store.”

By installing a new ventilation system and making other extensive interior upgrades, any potential for smells to enter the adjacent theater will be controlled, he said.

Concerns about the kitchen where marijuana edibles are to be produced are also based on “misconceptions” about the process, Kennedy said.

“This is not a large manufacturing facility. We’re only producing products for our own stores,” he said.

The only cooking process will be the baked goods that are produced, he added.

By using a cold-process, closed-loop CO2 extraction machine to draw the cannabis oil out of the plant, any odor is contained in the machine and no smoke or fumes are produced, Kennedy said.

The oil, not the raw marijuana buds, is what is used in the edible products that are manufactured, such as baked goods and candies.

“We will not be cooking raw cannabis, that’s sort of an old-school way of thinking,” he said. “We will be making cookies, yes, but it will smell like cookies.”

Kennedy, as well as Green Essentials LLC owner Ron Radtke in a letter to the editor that ran in the Post Independent on Tuesday, said they have proven themselves to be responsible business neighbors with their other locations.

“This attitude that marijuana makes bad neighbors needs to be changed to bad management makes bad neighbors,” Kennedy said.

Glenwood Springs City Councilman Todd Leahy, who has been generally supportive of the new retail marijuana trade, said he has heard many of the same concerns from constituents about the proposed new businesses.

He said the city spent many hours coming up with local rules and regulations, in addition to the stringent state regulations, and so far they have worked.

“We are blazing new trails here, and I am willing to listen to anybody’s concerns,” Leahy said. “But we spent hundreds of hours reviewing and passing these regulations.”

The downtown zone district, as long as the businesses meet distance requirements from schools and between each other, is one of the areas where both medical and retail establishments were allowed, he noted.

“The industry does have a few issues going on, and one of them is bad actors,” Leahy said, noting that it’s incumbent on business owners to inform their customers what the rules are around Colorado’s legalization of marijuana for adult use.

“You can’t go out and consume in a public place,” he said. “It’s no different than walking out of a liquor store and downing your Jack Daniels in the parking lot. You can’t do that.”

If any odor concerns or other issues arise after a business opens, Leahy said they must be addressed immediately.

“The owners of these businesses have to help us out with that,” he said.

Today’s license hearing begins at 2 p.m. in the municipal courtroom at City Hall. Three liquor license reviews are on the docket in addition to the two marijuana license applications that are to be heard.

Greenwerkz, which already has a marijuana shop in Glenwood Springs, is currently negotiating to buy the entire Green Dragon operation, including a Glenwood cultivation facility and shops in Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

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