Two pot growers get Rifle OK, seek state permits |

Two pot growers get Rifle OK, seek state permits

Mike McKibbin/Citizen Telegram File Photo
Staff Photo |

Two new marijuana cultivation operations received approval from the Rifle Planning Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and will now seek state permits before opening their new businesses.

Conditional use permits were granted on 5-2 votes, with commission members Dustin Marantino and Sharon Pettinger casting “no” votes on both permits. The permits will allow Leaf Aspen/Fat City Test Kitchen and Rifle Remedies to open medical marijuana “grow” operations in separate buildings off Airport Road.

Leaf Aspen, which has a medical marijuana dispensary near Carbondale, plans to lease and/or purchase a building at 3010 Airport Road, while Rifle Remedies – which operates the Green Cross Wellness Center and Dispensary in downtown Rifle – will be located at 777 Buckhorn Dr.

The city already has two medical marijuana cultivation operations, Green Cross Colorado and Green Medicine Wellness. Five medical marijuana dispensaries also operate in the city.

Both new grow operations will initially be for medical marijuana, but will likely split their operations into medical and recreational marijuana, once Rifle City Council establishes regulations for their operation. The council is scheduled to consider the ordinance on second reading at their Nov. 6 meeting.

Leaf Aspen representative Mark Sills told the commission his building will not have any signs and will have a “discreet” appearance.

“It was vacant for five months, so it will be good for the city to keep the building full of people,” he added.

In a statement of purpose to the planning commission, Leaf Aspen officials expect to need to hire around 30 new workers to help in the grow operation, “and the operation will fall under all taxation issues being drafted by the state and local municipalities,” Leaf Aspen officials wrote. “In other words, there may be significant revenues generated for the City of Rifle.”

Leaf Aspen also planned to use local contractors to “upfit” the building, at a cost of “tens of thousands of dollars.”

Rifle Remedies co-owner Dan Meskin said they looked “tirelessly” for a good location and the 777 Buckhorn Dr. location seems to be “the very best one we could find for our needs.”

After the meeting, co-owner Mike Miller said plans were still “up in the air” concerning their downtown Rifle medical marijuana dispensary. Under state regulations, existing medical marijuana businesses can convert to retail marijuana as of Jan. 1. However, Rifle City Council voted to ban such businesses in the city.

“We’ll start [their grow operation] for the medical customers and supply this store while we continue to look for a retail site” in another municipality that allows such businesses, Miller said.

Amendment 64, approved by Colorado voters last year, allows adults to use and grow small amounts of marijuana in private and gave local governments the option of either banning the commercial businesses or submitting the issue to local voters in 2014. Rifle City Council this year voted to ban all new marijuana-related businesses, except grow operations.

Miller and Meskin planned to file an application with state officials on Friday, with the state issuing a decision within 45 to 90 days, Meskin said. Until then, they don’t know how large of a grow operation will be allowed, Miller said.

The two plan to start operations with five or six employees, with more positions needed as demand for their marijuana indicates, Miller added.

Both men called the regulatory process established by state regulations as “overly burdensome.”

“We don’t feel like we’re really in control of our own destiny,” Meskin said.

Miller said city officials had been “great” to deal with, but both men expressed dissatisfaction and disappointment with city council’s actions related to their business.

“I think within a short time, you’re going to have five businesses leave town,” Meskin said.

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