Carbondale trustees back off revoking marijuana permit
October 10, 2017
Carbondale trustees Tuesday backed off a recommendation to revoke a marijuana business's permit.
After dealing with more than a year of odor complaints at The Laughing Dog Group, which operates a marijuana infused products facility on Buggy Circle, town staff had recommended that the Board of Trustees revoke the business's special use permit, which would effectively put them out of business.
However, the case didn't appear so "black and white," as Trustee Marty Silverstein put it, to the Town Council.
Ultimately, the council directed counsel to negotiate conditions of the special use permit with the business owner.
The revocation hearing was an unusually formal proceeding for the Carbondale Board of Trustees. It included a case presented by a town prosecutor, who presented evidence through witnesses (who were even sequestered during each other's testimony). And it allowed The Laughing Dog owner to cross examine those witnesses and present his own case and witnesses. This formality, Town Attorney Matt Hamilton explained, was being taken due to the serious nature of revoking a property right.
After hearing from several town staffers who have been fielding the complaints and inspecting the business, the board also heard from the owner, Steve Garcia, and several witnesses coming to his defense. Garcia described his attempts over the last year and a half to work with town staff and remedy the odor issue. He asserted that he had done everything that was asked of him, and he described steps like adding foam insulation, ensuring the doors properly sealed and installing a new filtration system and exhaust fans.
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The building owner even came to Garcia's defense, saying that more than odor issues, this was a "tenant issue." And he didn't mean Garcia. The building owner, who has managed the building since 2005, said that the same tenant, David Zamanksy, has a consistent stream of complaints about every other tenant in the building, and that he is actually the only one complaining. The building owner said that Zamansky, who owns the neighboring Novus Glass, has complained about noise and smells from previous tenants that pre-date Laughing Dog.
Trustees were still concerned, however, over a couple of incidents that were reported at Laughing Dog. In one instance the town received a complaint that a Laughing Dog employee was improperly cleaning odor mitigation filters by banging them out by the building. And the town manager and police chief reported seeing firsthand in August an AC unit that was blowing air from inside Laughing Dog's facility to the outside.
Garcia explained that in the first case, an employee who was trying to be proactive was incorrectly cleaning off the filters. And he said the AC unit was only supposed to be running at night when no one was present. Carbondale's town prosecutor emphasized that trustees should not let Garcia get away with the continual non-compliance, as it would set an example for other marijuana businesses.
None of the trustee came out in favor of revoking Laughing Dog's license after hearing the evidence. "To me, to revoke a special use permit, there would have to be clear negligence, and I'm not seeing that," said Mayor Dan Richardson.
Trustee Heather Henry sympathized with the businesses, saying that it sounds like more of a "bootstrapped" business that's trying to operate on more of a local basis, but that's learning some "hard-knock lessons in management" along the way. "I would very much like to give one more opportunity" for Laughing Dog to take these complaints very seriously, said Henry.