With six "ayes" and one abstention, the Fraser Board of Trustees approved the license of the first medical marijuana dispensary in the Fraser Valley as well as all of Grand County.
The Fraser board of trustees meeting sported a full house the night of Wednesday, Sept. 5, made up of Fraser citizens and other interested parties who attended the public hearing regarding the Serene Wellness Medical Marijuana Center.
Since Fraser requires a special use permit for pot shops, neighbors were allowed to weigh in and voice their concerns regarding the future location of the shop at 255 Mill Ave., about a block southwest of Grand Mountain Bank.
While no one spoke in support of the shop, three Fraser residents who live and operate businesses in close proximity to the future location voiced their concerns.
"I'm not against the business, I'm just against it being in this neighborhood," said Katie McCoy, a neighbor to the future shop.
The neighbors voiced concerns about an increase in traffic, odor from the shop, parking, the business being located in a residential neighborhood, security concerns, and the possibility of a decrease in value of their properties.
All of the concerns were taken into consideration by the board and were addressed by the proprietor of the shop, Dan Volpe.
"I would like to take the concerns of everyone into consideration and continue forward," Volpe said.
Three stipulations were added to the license, which the owner agreed to, including: The proprietor not being able to grow at the location; no customer access through the ally behind the building; and the installation of a buffer between the building and a neighbor's house.
Volpe is the owner of Serene Wellness in Empire, a dispensary where he has been in full compliance with all the regulations from both the town and the state for the two years they've been in operation.
He mentioned that while the concerns of everyone who testified in opposition of the store are valid, he brought up the fact that the medical marijuana industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the state, if not the country.
Fraser voters made way for medical marijuana dispensaries during the November 2010 election by passing a ballot question directing town officials to allow them.
The dispensary will be subject to a higher tax rate of an extra 5 percent, or 12.9 percent, for all sales, though this has not deterred the owner.
"Many of our customers travel from Grand County to Empire, so it made sense to open shop here," Volpe said.
Volpe plans to complete numerous upgrades to the location including repainting the building, closing off the ally entrance and constructing a parking lot to address traffic concerns.
"I am very happy with the outcome and very pleased that we are finding acceptable compromises with all of the interested parties," Volpe said. "My main objective is to ensure that everyone is happy and that we have a positive impact on the community."
It is unclear what the future may hold for medical marijuana dispensaries as a "Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative," also known as "Amendment 64," will be on the Nov. 6 ballot in Colorado as a constitutional amendment. This measure, if passed, would legalize marijuana in the state and allow people over the age of 21 to legally use marijuana and possess up to an ounce of the substance.
Possession of marijuana would remain illegal under federal law.
A similar measure was on the 2006 ballot and was defeated by 59 percent of Colorado voters.
Volpe still needs to be approved by the town of Fraser's building commission and is waiting for an approval on a license from the state.
Since he has already gone through the town process, he expects the state procedures to be expedited. Volpe said October would be the soonest he could open.