Our View: Let the market work — but limit the smoke | PostIndependent.com

Our View: Let the market work — but limit the smoke

Glenwood Springs’ bubbling discussion about more pot shops asks whether the stores are bad for the town’s image, children and tourist trade.

These questions, prompted by four applications to sell recreational marijuana — three in the downtown area — represent a reasonable discussion for the city to have after a bit more than a year of retail sales in town. The City Council is in the midst of imposing a moratorium on new shops after the applications already filed are considered under existing rules.

While we appreciate the concerns of some businesses, particularly those of Glenwood Vaudeville Revue owner John Goss, we generally believe that the city should let the market sort out how many of these stores the town can support. We agree with the majority of the council that it would be unfair to change the rules for those applications already submitted.

Further, we doubt that marijuana stores are the greatest risk to Glenwood’s image and tourist ambiance.

We would suggest a bigger step in that regard:

Ban smoking anything, including tobacco, in a defined downtown area, as Boulder and Fort Collins have done.

Little is more off-putting than walking down a sidewalk and having to pass through a cloud of tobacco smoke and/or walk around a clot of smokers. This is doubly true for families trying to stroll and enjoy Glenwood as a getaway spot.

If we are concerned about sending children the right message, let’s say that it’s illegal in downtown Glenwood Springs to use any addictive or mind-altering substance in public, which is already the case with alcohol and marijuana, but not tobacco. Let’s make it illegal to expose any of our residents, workers and visitors to deadly secondhand smoke. Let’s ban smoking on the library plaza, a place frequented by children; and along our trails and in our parks.

Police say it is difficult to enforce laws against public consumption of marijuana. We aren’t helpless in this regard if we have a will. The council can order a focus on this in parks and more crowded spots. Fines for smoking tobacco and, more significantly, new local sales and excise taxes on marijuana sold and grown in town (as Carbondale has) can help pay for enforcement.

Regarding the store applications, the location that’s most problematic is the Green Dragon proposal for 919 Grand Ave., next to the Vaudeville. This would be a retail store that also will extract cannabis oil on site to infuse into edible products, some of which will be baked at the location. Goss doesn’t want marijuana odor in his theater, which is entirely reasonable.

Jeff Kennedy, manager at the current Green Dragon and Green Essentials medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility on Devereux Road, insists odor won’t be a problem.

“We will be making cookies, yes, but it will smell like cookies,” he told the PI’s John Stroud.

If the location is approved, we believe Green Dragon will work to be a good neighbor to the Vaudeville — and that any odor problems can be addressed through conversation and, if need be, nuisance ordinances.

The mere presence of pot shops, like that of liquor stores, doesn’t seem like a black eye on this Colorado community any more than it is for others. Legal marijuana, still a novelty in the state, is met largely with acceptance by residents. About two-thirds of Glenwood voters, after all, approved legalization. It’s a fact of life here, perhaps a bigger fact of life than many of us would like, but a fact nonetheless.

We think tourists know that. Perhaps they are amused by it. Perhaps they use the presence of stores to talk to their children about drugs. Perhaps they are elated and spend money in the pot shops and restaurants. Legal marijuana is contributing revenue to town and may be a welcome hedge when the next recession comes.

We do not suggest that marijuana is harmless to kids. Evidence suggests that it, along with other drugs, is particularly bad for growing brains. Surely it is best for teens and young adults (and grown-ups, come to think of it) not to drink, smoke or otherwise ingest mind-altering substances. Saying that doesn’t make it so, though; only years of persistent parent and school education and a certain attitude in the youngster make that work. We have a hard time imagining that a storefront will be a tipping point, any more than a liquor store is responsible for underage drinking.

We also don’t believe that, over time, Glenwood will have enough marijuana demand to support a store on every block downtown. We think the market will resolve that question. It may be a proper step for the City Council, after deliberation, to decide that the town has enough pot operations in the downtown area for now. It could cap the number or decide to pause on any new permits for a year or two, waiting for the market to sort itself out.

But if we really want to get some positive publicity among tourists and set Glenwood apart from other towns, we’ll be bold and ban tobacco use downtown.

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