Pot store owners worried about future in Rifle due to licensing application delay

Mike McKibbin
Citizen Telegram Editor
Mike McKibbin/Citizen Telegram
Staff Photo |

At least one medical marijuana business will likely leave Rifle, if the City Council does not allow license applications for recreational marijuana stores soon after the Sept. 10 election.

Dan Meskin and Mike Miller, co-owners of Green Cross Dispensary and Wellness Center in downtown Rifle, urged City Council to not delay the applications period at their Aug. 7 meeting, or the two men risk being at a competitive disadvantage with such businesses in surrounding communities.

“Almost all the municipalities around us will start taking applications on Oct. 1,” Meskin said. “So even if Rifle allows us to apply later than that, we will be behind the others. The customer base will go to where they can legally buy it, and we lose out. I don’t see how that benefits anyone in this room. It feels like the city is dragging its feet. We need to know.”

The city has a moratorium in place on such license applications until Oct. 1, but was asked to extend it to Jan. 1 by City Attorney Jim Neu. He took the step to get more time for city officials to review state regulations for recreational marijuana businesses that were finalized a few months ago.

Under amendment 64, approved by Colorado voters last fall, the private use of small amounts of marijuana by adults is legal. The state regulations set out a process and rules to regulate and tax, with voter approval, the businesses that sell the drug to state residents. Those businesses will be allowed to open on Jan. 1, if they have state and local permits. Local permits are a requirement of the state regulations.

Neu said the key question is not about the local regulations and application period, but whether or not the city will even allow the businesses to locate in Rifle.

“That’s up to the council,” he said.

Councilman Alan Lambert noted that with three or four new council members seated after Rifle’s election, that council may decide to do something different than the current council, and could ban recreational marijuana businesses. The amendment gives each local government that option.

After more discussion, council directed Neu to write an ordinance that sets Nov. 6 as the date license applications can be taken, which Miller said might allow Green Cross to open as a recreational store shortly after the first of the year.

“If it goes much longer, we’d have to look at where we want to take our business,” he added. “We love this town and our location, but our customers want some answers, too. One way or another. We already get daily phone calls from people who know it’s legal to use marijuana, but there’s no legal outlet to buy it.”

Neu noted the state regulations call for permits to be processed within 90 days. State permits can be applied for starting Oct. 1.

“We need to be ready with our own process, or the state regulations will apply, if we decide to allow the businesses to locate here,” he said.

Meskin said Rifle allowed medical marijuana businesses without any local regulations.

Owners talk about impacts

In an interview on Monday, Aug. 12, Meskin said medical marijuana businesses are the only entities allowed to seek state permits for the first six months of next year.

“We just want to be able to decide what to do,” he said.

Miller said he hoped people turned out to show support for allowing recreational marijuana businesses in Rifle at a Sept. 18 City Council workshop on the topic.

“Whether you’re for or against it, marijuana is here to stay in Colorado,” Meskin said. “People will go to Glenwood Springs, buy it and bring it back to Rifle. It will still be policed, but Glenwood Springs gets the tax dollars.”

He also said recreational marijuana will drive medical marijuana businesses out of existence, so stores such as Green Cross have a limited lifetime either way.

Miller noted Mesa County, Grand Junction, Parachute and Silt have banned recreational marijuana stores, so Rifle could see an economic uptick if the city allows the stores.

“So why not regulate it, keep it above board instead of driving it underground, and tax it?” Meskin asked.

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