Glenwood council vows quick pot rules review
Glenwood Springs City Council pledged last week to try to wrap up its review of the city’s marijuana rules and regulations and make any changes it decides to pursue by early September.
Council, on a 6-1 vote at its June 4 meeting, gave final approval to a temporary, 90-day moratorium on new marijuana license and land-use applications while it carries out the review.
“We either get this done in 90 days or we move on,” Councilman Matt Steckler said, adding he would not support an extension of the moratorium beyond that time period.
Although he said he shares some of the concerns expressed recently by residents and business owners about the likely proliferation of legal recreational marijuana businesses, “most of the business owners we have now are good actors in our community,” Steckler said.
The halt on new retail and medical marijuana business licenses and land-use related proposals does not affect several applications that are already in process, and which prompted the latest call for a review of the rules.
Two of those retail marijuana shops are pending a final decision by the city’s licensing officer by the end of this week, for what would be a second Green Dragon retail outlet and new edibles kitchen at 919 Grand Ave., and the proposed Recreational Releaf Dispensary at 404 10th St.
Two additional recreational retail license requests for stores in the downtown area, one at Sixth and Grand and another in the 800 block of Grand, are scheduled for hearings July 8.
In addition, a proposed new marijuana cultivation facility and retail shop on Devereux Road goes before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on June 23.
Until the moratorium is lifted, no new applications will be accepted by the city.
What happens in the meantime, based on discussions to date, could run the gamut from limiting the number of retail stores in the downtown core, to increasing the spacing between marijuana businesses or from schools, to prohibiting them in certain zone districts altogether.
Some council members have also suggested the city consider an extra retail sales tax on recreational marijuana, beyond the city’s regular sales tax, to help pay for such things as enforcement of public marijuana consumption in parks and elsewhere.
That discussion will begin in earnest at a July 2 council work session.
Spencer Schiffer of Aspen, who is part of the Osiris group that is proposing the new cultivation facility and retail store at 2150 Devereux Road, applauded the council for not putting the brakes on pending applications.
“I remain philosophically opposed to moratoriums, but I do believe the wording of this is fair and reasonable,” he said.
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi opposed the moratorium, saying the free market “will do a better job” of regulating the number and location of marijuana shops in Glenwood Springs than new rules and regulations.
Some existing marijuana business owners have been supportive of the city’s efforts to revisit things.
At a May 21 City Council meeting, Brian Sullivan, speaking on behalf of his parents, who own the Green Joint retail store and Green Medicine Wellness dispensary at 11th and Grand, called for greater separation between businesses.
He noted that under the original medical marijuana licensing rules prior to the advent of recreational marijuana, dispensaries had to be at least 500 feet apart. That was changed to 325 feet under the retail regulations.
Requiring something along the lines of 800 feet separation “would bring some sort of balance for the overall community,” Sullivan said.
Jeff Kennedy, manager at the Green Dragon retail store, dispensary and cultivation facility on Devereux Road, said at that same meeting that the current operators “take very seriously” their responsibility to follow both the city and state regulations.
“We as a town need to address this,” he said of proposals that marijuana businesses work with youth organizations, schools and the police to provide educational information about legal marijuana for those age 21 and older, and the fact that it remains illegal for those under 21 to possess, distribute or consume.
“I think we can find some common ground,” Kennedy said. “And do the regulations need tweaking? Yeah, they probably do.”
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