Pot license appeals before Glenwood council | PostIndependent.com

Pot license appeals before Glenwood council

Kaitlyn Welch, from New Castle, helps a customer at the Green Dragon Cannabis Company in Glenwood Springs.
Colleen O’Neil/Post Independent |

Glenwood Springs City Council enters uncharted waters tonight when it hears two appeals for new licenses to open new retail marijuana shops in the city, one of which would include Glenwood’s first pot edibles kitchen.

Licenses for the new Green Dragon shop and Grand Edibles kitchen at 919 Grand Ave., and for the Recreational Releaf Dispensary Bar at 404 10th St., were denied last month by the city’s license hearing officer, Angela Roff.

Although the license requests were in general compliance with the city’s zoning and licensing requirements for retail marijuana establishments, Roff denied the applications based on opposing comments from local residents and business owners who spoke at a May 13 review hearing.

Roff said in her written decisions that the applications did not meet the “desires of the adult inhabitants” of the city, as spelled out in the city’s marijuana regulations.

Those regulations also allow for an appeal of the hearing officer’s decision to City Council, which both Releaf and the Green Dragon have done.

When Council convenes at 7 p.m. tonight at City Hall, it will be the first time since the code was adopted in 2013 that councilors have heard a marijuana license appeal.

The city’s code gives the council the authority to “sustain, modify or overturn” the hearing officer’s decision.

“City Council shall direct the local licensing authority to take a particular action,” according to code requirements hammered out by the city after retail sales of marijuana for recreational use became legal in Colorado under Amendment 64.

The code goes on to say that the licensing authority must conform to the direction of City Council within 10 calendar days. However, it does not say how soon council must make its decision after the appeal hearing.

So it’s possible that testimony could be heard at the appeal hearing, including public comments. But Council could table its decision until a later time. Council is likely to discuss procedural matters when it convenes for its morning pre-meeting today.

In their appeals, representatives for Green Dragon and Releaf said Roff gave too much weight to the comments made at the May 13 hearing.

“The desires of the adult inhabitants was made clear from the vote on Amendment 64 in November 2012,” Lauren Maytin, attorney for the Green Dragon, said in her appeal. “Just because no members of the public showed up to testify on behalf of the applicant … does not mean that the few people who spoke adequately represent the desires of the young adults or senior inhabitants of Glenwood Springs.”

Appellants also have presented petitions containing 500 signatures of Glenwood Springs residents in the case of Releaf, and 121 on behalf Green Dragon, in support of their licenses.

Opponents, meanwhile, are expected to show up in force at tonight’s hearing as well.

Kelly McKendrick, who with his wife, Juli, also started an online petition in May opposing any new marijuana licenses in Glenwood that has generated more than 290 signatures, said the denials should be upheld.

“The Green Dragon/Grand Edibles location is in the downtown core and next-door to the Vaudeville Theater, a family entertainment venue,” McKendrick said Wednesday. “This is an anchor of the Glenwood community for one, and a family tourist attraction as well.”

Likewise, the proposed Releaf location is in a largely residential neighborhood, which McKendrick also said is inappropriate.

“With five locations in our city that provide this product in different shapes and forms I feel that there are enough shops currently, and any further shops would damage our family friendly tourist destination label which is key to our success as a city,” he said of the five current medical marijuana dispensaries and three retail outlets for recreational purchases.

McKendrick also questioned whether marijuana stores should be likened to retail liquor stores, as both appeals have suggested.

“This is a much different situation, as marijuana is more of a fringe commodity that carries a stigma for a community if overexposed,” he said. “I liken these marijuana shops closer to adult video stores and strip clubs than liquor stores.”

Also tonight, during a 5:15 p.m. work session, City Council will begin reviewing the city’s marijuana regulations to determine what changes might be made to the rules. Council has imposed a 90-day moratorium on any new marijuana license applications until that determination can be made, but the applications under appeal were filed before the moratorium was imposed.

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