Colorado Marijuana News

Council gives final OK to new pot business rules

August 22, 2015 — 

The city of Glenwood Springs has completed new rules for marijuana businesses, including the addition of a special-use review and hearing process, and an expanded 900-foot setback between retail pot shops and related businesses.

City Council on Thursday approved the amended ordinance without any further discussion or public comment. The issue was aired during an Aug. 6 public hearing when council agreed to the new rules on first reading.

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Approval granted for Green Dragon to change hands

August 12, 2015 — 

A Denver-based cannabis company that already owns a retail and medical marijuana operation in Glenwood Springs won local approval Wednesday to acquire the Green Dragon’s local holdings.

Greenwerkz already received approval in May from Aspen’s licensing authority for a transfer of ownership involving the Green Dragon retail store and medical dispensary in Aspen.

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Glenwood moves to toughen pot shop rules

August 9, 2015 — 

New marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs will face a special planning review to make sure the proposed location is suitable, and will have to be separated by at least 900 feet.

Those are the new rules that won initial approval Thursday night on a 6-1 vote by Glenwood Springs City Council.

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Glenwood moves to toughen pot shop rules

August 7, 2015 — 

New marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs will face a special planning review to make sure the proposed location is suitable, and will have to be separated by at least 900 feet.

Those are the new rules that won initial approval Thursday night on a 6-1 vote by Glenwood Springs City Council.

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Council set to weigh pot rule revisions

August 6, 2015 — 

A ban on new marijuana businesses in the downtown core, a special permit review that would involve the city’s planning commission and a greatly increased 900-foot setback between shops are among options before Glenwood Springs City Council this Thursday.

The options were among the ideas discussed at a council work session in early July regarding possible revisions to the city’s existing licensing and land-use regulations for retail and medical marijuana businesses.

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Vail poised to ban pot

July 20, 2015 — 

VAIL — The temporary ban on retail marijuana in Vail could be permanent in a matter of weeks.

Just two weeks after the Vail Town Council passed yet another extension of a 2014 moratorium banning marijuana businesses, the council Tuesday night will consider the first reading of a permanent ban. That ban could be overturned by a future town council.

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Government Tracker: Vail extends pot ban

July 9, 2015 — 

Board: Vail Town Council, July 7 evening meeting.

Present: Jenn Bruno, Greg Moffet, Ludwig Kurz, Mayor Andy Daly, Margaret Rogers, Dave Chapin, Dale Bugby.

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Vail extends pot moratorium

June 17, 2015 — 

VAIL — The Vail Town Council Tuesday again extended a temporary ban on retail marijuana sales in town. But the days may be numbered for the temporary ban.

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve on first reading an ordinance extending the ban for another 60 days. The council will probably give final approval to the ordinance at its July 7 meeting.

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Marijuana by the Numbers: 10 numbers about pot in Colorado that don't include 4-20

April 20, 2015 — 

Most Coloradans probably know that 4-20 — April 20 — has become the day for celebrating marijuana. Although the origin is still debated, four-twenty is probably the most popular numeric reference to pot. Rocky Mountain PBS I-News has compiled a list of less well-known figures, a paint by the numbers picture of cannabis in Colorado.

1. 71 percent

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Public marijuana use problems level off

December 22, 2014 — 

VAIL — As more recreational marijuana dispensaries opened up in the area, some authorities and residents thought the problem of public smoking would become an increasingly visible problem. Instead, according to police and resort records, incidents of public consumption have not shown any significant increase over last year.

In Vail, the town has strict rules against using marijuana in public areas, and use is prohibited on the ski resorts, which is on federal U.S. Forest Service land. So far, there are no retail recreational marijuana stores in Vail, which has put a temporary moratorium on the businesses since retail shops became legal.

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Granby moves to block marijuana shop

December 5, 2014 — 

A last-ditch effort by the Granby Board of Trustees to stop a marijuana business from opening in an unincorporated enclave could lead to a legal showdown.

The board will consider an emergency ordinance to annex a property that lies within an enclave on U.S. Highway 40 near Middle Park Medical Center-Granby at its Dec. 9 meeting.

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Fraser green lights second retail marijuana store

December 4, 2014 — 

It looks like Fraser is going to get a little greener this winter.

The town’s board of trustees unanimously approved a license for a new retail marijuana store in Fraser at its Thursday, Dec. 4, meeting.

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Hot Sulphur voters support marijuana bans

November 6, 2014 — 

On Tuesday residents of Hot Sulphur Springs affirmed their support for the existing ban on marijuana-related facilities in the town.

Folks in Hot Sulphur Springs were presented with six ballot measures on the ballot exclusively in their community.

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Is marijuana revitalizing Eagle-Vail?

November 1, 2014 — 

EAGLE-VAIL — Can marijuana revitalize Eagle-Vail’s commercial district? Whatever the answer ultimately is, the marijuana business is growing — and bringing more people to — a stretch of U.S. Highway 6 some are already calling the “Green Mile.”

By Nov. 8, there will be three medical and three recreational marijuana businesses in the mile or so east of the stoplight at U.S. Highway 6 and Eagle Road. Two of the medical businesses have been in the valley since about 2009. The recreational businesses have all opened just this year.

Native Roots, in the back of the former Route 6 Cafe building, was the first to open. There, general manager Grant Troeger said business has been anywhere from good to crazy. After the store opened in early August, as many as 500 people per day would come in.

Four people came in during a 10-minute visit to the store on a recent early evening.

Just to the west, a new store, Rocky Road, is set to open Nov. 8. Both Native Roots and Rocky Road are parts of larger companies — the third shop, Roots Rx, is locally owned. But Native Roots and Rocky Road seem to reflect two approaches to the business.

Native Roots is in a more bare-bones space. The employees are friendly and the shelves are well-stocked, but the decor is simple.

Rocky Road seems aimed at destination guests, with plenty of wood and stone on the walls and floors. About half the store can also be shut off from the other half. The idea is if a well-heeled guests calls ahead and asks to stay out of sight of other clients, he or she can be ushered in through the back door for a discrete visit.

More to come?

The three current recreational businesses in Eagle-Vail could be joined soon by another two. In all, Eagle County will make eight recreational licenses available — five in Eagle-Vail, one in Edwards and another two in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Is that too much?

Putnam Pierman, of Rocky Road, doesn’t think so.

“There’s actually very little competition when you think of all the bars and liquor stores around,” Pierman said.

While Rocky Road has taken an upscale approach, Pierman said that business intends to rely on local customers. Those are the people who will recommend the business to concierges and visitors. Troeger added that local residents will keep businesses running between tourist seasons.

Greg Honan has operated the Herbal Elements medical marijuana dispensary since 2009. Herbal Elements’ recreational license is still in the lengthy, expensive approval process, but Honan said that’s a part of the business his shop needs to get into soon.

Asked about the growth of the business in Eagle-Vail, Honan said there are both opportunities and challenges for his business.

The opportunities include being able to work with, and share ideas with, other operators. For Honan, opportunity also exists in his growing business, which is based in Eagle-Vail, and is able to expand as state regulations evolve.

Honan noted there are several advantages to keeping a medical license, as well as a permit to buy medical marijuana.

Medical customers can be as young as 18, while recreational marijuana is limited to those 21 and older. Medical marijuana purchasers also are exempt from the 25 percent state tax on recreational products.

Honan said state and local officials at some point will have to re-evaluate the level of taxation on recreational marijuana. Taxes, and the difficulty and expense of applying for permits and licenses have kept many black-market growers and sellers from going into the legal-marijuana business, he said.

Some of those requirements include plenty of education. Troeger and Rocky Road manager Suzannah Tarpey both said educating customers is a crucial part of their jobs, especially when it comes to visitors.

That education includes a lot of talking to people about the need to take it easy with edible products — which can take an hour or more to take effect.

Tarpey, a longtime veteran of the Vail restaurant and bar business, said she’s seen people on the floor after eating too much.

Good neighbors?

Longtime Eagle-Vail business Thurston Kitchen and Bath is two doors down from Rocky Road. There, designer Ken Jones said the new neighbors have created a clean, efficient space.

“They’re handling it well,” Jones said. “And anything that puts more people on our sidewalk is good.”

At the Route 6 Cafe, owner Ollie Holdstock said he’s been happy with what he’s seen so far.

Holdstock said marijuana has been a part of life in the Vail Valley in the 30-plus years he’s lived here. The sales taxes — the state’s portion of which are dedicated to school construction — are also nice to have, he said.

Holdstock said his business is up in the last six months, although whether that has anything to do with the marijuana business isn’t clear.

“But Eagle-Vail was a dying entity before they came,” Holdstock said. “Businesses are moving in again.”

And, he said, people who come to buy marijuana products might just stop in for a burger and a beer while they’re in the neighborhood.

At Native Roots, the old business area seems to be going through a burst of activity. In addition to the deli and gas station out front, a brewery is being established right next door, and a Crossfit studio has opened up across the parking lot.

“Every single company here has come in to tell us, ‘People know where we are now,’” Troeger said.

Growers abandon $8.3 million in illegal pot

October 8, 2014 — 

GYPSUM – Just because pot is legal in Colorado does not mean you can grow it on someone else’s land.

In the last week, illegal growers walked away from 3,630 marijuana plants worth as much as $8.3 million in marijuana, 1,000 in Eagle County near Cottonwood Pass south of Gypsum, and 2,630 plants near Ruedi Reservoir in Pitkin County.

A hunter trekking in the Cottonwood Pass area south of Gypsum found the around 1,000 pot plants growing on private land Oct. 1. The hunter did not strap any of it to the hood of his truck, as hunters used to do with their quarry, but instead notified the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

When deputies arrived, they found an elaborate irrigation system bringing life-giving fluids to the 1,000 pot plants. They also found a campsite nearby.

Deputies hid and watched for a long time, but no suspects showed up to harvest their crop. Eventually, because the plants would have to be harvested before the frost, and because it has already begun to frost at night, deputies decided no one was coming to claim the makeshift pot plantation. So deputies confiscated and destroyed all of the marijuana plants.

The landowner did not know the pot was there, the Sheriff’s Office said, and was happy when it was gone.

With perfect conditions outdoors, a mature pot plant can yield up to around 18 ounces, according to The Weed Blog.

If those 1,000 plants all yielded 18 ounces, at $196 per ounce for medium grade weed according to priceofweed.com, the growers would have yielded $352,000.

The case remains under investigation, the Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement.

Pitkin pot connection?

It’s not clear whether the Cottonwood Pass pot plantation was related to the Ruedi Reservoir reefer in Pitkin County found last week, but investigators are looking for connections, said Jessie Mosher, public information with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

The Pitkin County pot plantation near Ruedi was on public land, and growers walked away from a crop worth between $6 million and $8 million, said Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor with the White River National Forest.

Forest Service workers pulled 2,630 plants out of the ground and destroyed them.

That site was also found by hunters, Fitzwilliams said.

That growing operation was simple but effective, Fitzwilliams said. A “check dam” on a nearby creek created a water source for irrigation. A gravity-fed piping system delivered water to the site.

The pot plants, which were up to 6 feet tall, were growing in three or four clumps in natural clearings between subalpine fir and aspen trees in an area smaller than 2 acres, Fitzwilliams said.

The Forest Service is keeping the exact location under wraps while it finishes its investigation.

In September 2013, an illegal operation was found near Hayes Creek in the Redstone area, worth more than $8 million. Forest Service officials yanked 3,375 marijuana plants out of the ground.

Since 2009, 34 illegal marijuana grow sites and more than 65,000 marijuana plants have been eradicated from national forests in Colorado.

The agency estimates the plants produce an average of 1 pound of marijuana per plant.

While Colorado voters approved use of recreational marijuana, the federal government still views pot as illegal, the agency said in a statement.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Retail pot shop opens in Eagle-Vail

August 4, 2014 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — The Vail Valley’s second retail marijuana shop opens Monday. There will be more in the coming months.

Eagle’s Sweet Leaf Pioneer has been open since spring, and another shop is planned. While every other town in the valley has either banned or delayed licensing for new retail shops, a number of shops are planned for Edwards and Eagle-Vail, both in unincorporated Eagle County.

The first of those shops, Native Roots, opens Monday in Eagle-Vail, in the back part of the building that once housed the Route 6 Cafe.

When Eagle County finished its regulations for retail shops, Native Roots — a Front Range-based company with medical dispensaries and retail shops in Boulder and Denver — was already in the midst of working through an application for a medical dispensary at the Eagle-Vail site.

Scot Hunn, a senior planner with the county who focuses on marijuana license applications, said that head start helped Native Roots get open first.

It’s a complex process to obtain a retail license. A potential operator first has to clear all of the state’s myriad requirements. After that, it’s time to meet the county’s licensing requirements. Before a license is issued and sales can start, the operator of a dispensary or retail store also has to go through an extensive building-permit process.

Hunn said an operator must submit plans that include everything from security to ventilation.

“They have to show us on paper that they can provide a solution to potential problems,” Hunn said.

That building permit approval is important for stores or dispensaries in multi-unit buildings, so neighbors aren’t affected by odors, but Hunn said the requirements are especially important for growing operations, which create more odors than shops.

Final license approval is granted after a final inspection, and licenses must be renewed every year, pending inspections.

Hunn said at the moment another five licenses are pending for this part of the county, with two in process for the potion of the county in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Three of those licenses were reserved for the three existing medical dispensaries in the valley. Hunn said there were eight applicants for the remaining three licenses. All of those recreational license-holders are now working through the approval process, Hunn said. One of the two businesses currently based in Edwards is working on a move to Eagle-Vail in the name of finding a larger space.

Native Roots co-owner Rhett Jordan said his company was attracted to the valley by a couple of things — opportunity, and the fact he’s been coming here since he was a kid growing up in the Denver area.

“The Vail Valley’s been a big part of my life, and when we heard Eagle (county) was going recreational, we decided to come.”

While a recreational license will certainly attract tourists, Jordan said the medical part of Native Roots’ business remains its top priority.

That business has changed significantly since dispensaries began opening quickly in 2009. That rush followed a U.S. Department of Justice directive to essentially ignore those businesses, although marijuana possession, sale and consumption is a federal crime. Another directive a couple of years later essentially reined in the dispensary business. Jordan said the number of dispensaries in the state has dropped from a high of more than 1,200 to just more than 500 today.

Jordan said the people left in the business today tend to be more professional.

“The industry has really started to shift — I think we all wanted to create something bigger and stronger.”

And, like others in the industry, Jordan believes that if Colorado sets a good example in the wake of the 2012 ballot issue that legalized recreational use in the state, it could bode well for legalization in other states, too.

But is five shops in Eagle-Vail too much? Jordan said Eagle County might have “overshot the market a little to get more competition.”

As the number of recreational stores multiplies, it will be interesting to see who survives.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

Grand County puts off Highland Lumber rezoning decision

July 15, 2014 — 

The Grand County commissioners decided to table a proposal to rezone the former Highland Lumber building on U.S. Highway 40 in Tabernash, which might become a medical-marijuana grow facility.

Wells Fargo Bank took ownership of the 11-acre parcel and building after foreclosing on the owner.

Realtor Lance Gutersohn, who represented Wells Fargo, is seeking to rezone the land from tourist to business.

The property is already under contract with a potential buyer who intends to turn the facility into a medical marijuana grow operation, Gutersohn said. Whether the buyer closes on the contract is contingent on rezoning, county and state licensure, and other factors.

But during the July 15 meeting, dialogue focused on the building’s potential future use rather than rezoning the property.

Ron Jones, owner of Miller Storage, which adjoins the Highland Lumber property, expressed concerns about the county’s marijuana regulations.

“I’m concerned about the uses that are allowed within the business zone,” said Jones. “And I realize that medical marijuana grow facilities are one of those uses and I’m not here to speak about medical marijuana grow facilities as a pro or a con, but I’m concerned about the regulations that we have in place.”

Jones argued that, because the rezoning would allow the potential use of the of a medical marijuana facility, it was germane to the discussion.

“Believe me, I have done enough networking,” Jones said. “There’s a huge concern in the community about marijuana grow facilities as it relates to odor, as it relates to lighting and as it relates to noise.”

The adjacent property is already zoned business, and both the Grand County Planning and Zoning Department and the Grand County Planning Commission recommended that the county commissioners grant the rezoning request.

“We believe that it complies with all of the requirements within our rezoning request,” said Kristen Manguso, Grand County planning director.

But Jones said the putative use of the property warranted consideration in the zoning hearing.

“This particular property is located very close to a number of residential uses. And even though there is business use next door and that I very well may give business use to my property next door, we as a community need to be concerned about the impact this will have,” Jones said.

Jones said that the county should take an extra week to consider requiring a special use permit for the property.

“The special use permit does not create any undue burden on an applicant for this type of facility,” Jones said. “We all live up here. To the best of my knowledge, nobody who’s applying for these grow facilities lives up here. They’re not invested in the community so therefore shouldn’t we take our time? Shouldn’t we have local control over this use?”

However, resident David Michel didn’t agree with Jones’s view.

“I think that sometimes people speak from a position of ignorance because they don’t know regulations that are already imposed by both the state and the county,” Michel said. “Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds conjecture as to all sorts of horribles that may occur but likely will not occur.”

Michel asked that commissioners grant the rezoning request.

Gutersohn reiterated that he didn’t believe the discussion regarding marijuana was pertinent to the issue at hand.

“If in fact this marijuana thing does shut down, it’s all the more reason for us to have that business zoning, so that if for some reason there’s somebody that wants to bring a business to Grand County and buy that property, then they’ll be able to do that,” Gutersohn said. “The marijuana thing doesn’t have anything to do with our request here. We’re looking for business zoning for this building.”

Commissioner James Newberry asked if all uses would be grandfathered in under the zoning change. County Attorney Jack DiCola advised that the county could take the issue under advisement with notice and could declare a moratorium with regard to zoning code matters.

“However, I believe that the current regulations, both under the business district zone and our marijuana licensing, will cover anything that you want to cover,” DiCola said. “There are a number of uses in the business zone from warehouse facilities to nurseries to commercial greenhouses, eating and drinking establishments, construction businesses — a lot of issues here — but none of those have impacts outside of the zone.”

Commissioners were unable to reach an understanding on how to proceed. They will revisit the matter on July 22.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

Grand County planning board says no to proposed marijuana grow facility

July 15, 2014 — 

Grand County Planning Commission voted four to two against issuing a special use permit for a proposed marijuana grow facility near Granby.

The Department of Planning and Zoning recommended the commission approve the permit.

“We do have to recommend approval on this,” said Kristen Manguso, the county’s planning director, citing the support of Grand County voters for recreational marijuana.

“The voting record shows that the majority of people, even if it’s one more than the minority, are in support of marijuana,” Manguso said.

The property, currently owned by Granby Realty Partners, LLC., is located adjacent to Neils Lunceford landscaping near the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 34.

The proposed facility would have created one to five jobs and initially grown 200 plants, though later modifications would have expanded its capacity to between 500 and 900 plants, said Kevin Speier, the co-owner and CEO of MMK Limited, the Denver-based company which sought to build the facility.

Concerns over lighting, odor, proximity to Granby

During the hearing, commissioners expressed concern about the plant odor the facility would produce.

Speier said the facility would have a triple carbon filtration system that would eliminate most odors.

Some commissioners were also concerned that the facility would be too near to Granby, which expressed its intent to force annexation of the area in a last-minute letter from Town Manager Wally Baird to the commissioners.

“The Town Board has approved a motion for the Town Staff to begin the process of annexing the property as an enclave,” wrote Baird. “Since the Town does not allow for the propagation, processing, or sale of marijuana products or plants, the activity at the site would be required to cease as a part of the Town.”

Some commissioners also expressed concern about the intrusiveness of lighting at the facility, though Manguso noted that the facility is already in a heavily lit area.

MMK Limited can still appeal the planning commission’s decision with the board of county commissioners.

Speier told the Sky-Hi News it was a possibility, though legally he could not say for sure.

Grand County Commissioners adopted an ordinance regulating marijuana facilities in the county in January 2014.

Planning commissioners Ingrid Karlstrom and Steve DiSciullo were the only members of the board who voted to approve the permit.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

Grand County commissioners to hear marijuana permit request

July 14, 2014 — 

The Grand County commissioners will conduct a public hearing regarding a special use permit for a marijuana cultivation facility near Granby.

The board will consider the application on Tuesday, July 22, in the Grand County Administration Building in Hot Sulphur Springs.

The Grand County Planning Commission denied a special use permit for the same applicant, Kevin Speier, during its July 9 meeting.

Speier had applied for a special use permit to grow recreational marijuana in the former Mountain Parks Electric warehouse building north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 34.

Vail pot moratorium moves forward

July 5, 2014 — 

VAIL — While resort towns elsewhere were quick to jump into retail marijuana sales, Vail continues its wait-and-see approach.

The Vail Town Council Tuesday unanimously passed on first reading an ordinance that will extend the town’s current moratorium on retail marijuana sales in town. The town had been working through the spring on perhaps making a final decision on whether or not to ban retail sales in town, facing a self-imposed July 31 deadline.

The town formed a “working group” to evaluate the issue, but it became clear to council members that more time would be needed, which led to the new ordinance.

While council members all voted for the ordinance — which requires one more vote before final passage — they did raise questions.

Council member Greg Moffet asked whether Vail might be depriving itself of revenue to handle “potential problems” related to retail sales, since those sales are currently allowed in nearby Eagle-Vail. Moffet noted that there are Craigslist ads offering delivery services into Vail.

On the other hand, Moffet said, initial reports from other resort towns indicate there have been few, if any, law enforcement problems.

Council member Jenn Bruno suggested that town officials have some in-depth conversations with their counterparts in Aspen during a get-together later this month.

Vail voters in 2012 overwhelmingly approved Amendment 64, the state constitutional amendment that legalized possession and use of small amounts of marijuana and laid the foundation for retail sales. But a more recent survey showed a majority of town residents oppose allowing retail sales in town.

Silverthorne Town Council votes to extend hours for retail marijuana shops

June 26, 2014 — 

People looking to purchase marijuana in Silverthorne after sundown are now in luck.

On Wednesday night, the Silverthorne Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance extending the hours of operation at retail marijuana shops. Shops can now operate from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Prior town code required them to lock up by 7 p.m.

“I’d like to put our marijuana shop on equal footing with everyone else,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ann-Marie Sandquist. “And (the shop) has been very good working with the town council and with the police department.”

Mayor Bruce Butler agreed.

“The fact they’ve been such a good actor makes it easier to do this,” he said.

State law allows retail marijuana shops to be open as late as midnight. But local governments can establish their own regulations, such as hours of operation, as long as they fall within the state law.

Town officials said the chief motivation behind the time change was to give the town’s only marijuana shop, High Country Healing, a chance to remain open as late as surrounding businesses.

“There is a liquor store right next to us that can be open until at least 10 p.m.,” said Colby Hockersmith, general manager at High Country Healing. “It didn’t make sense for us to have to close so early while several other businesses in the same center can remain open for hours longer. This gives us an opportunity to serve more customers.”

When the council originally approved the sale of retail marijuana it adopted the same hours that had applied to medical dispensaries, which accounted for the 7 p.m. closing time.

The change also puts Silverthorne’s retail marijuana regulations more in line with other towns in the county. Breckenridge, for example, allows retail marijuana stores to operate from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

“We’ve had the same hours in place since Jan. 1,” said Kim Dykstra-DiLallo, Breckenridge’s communication director. “They can be open at any time in that window. It’s up to each business to decide.”

Now Silverthorne residents and visitors will have a chance to frequent their local marijuana shop under the stars as High Country Healing has changed its hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Vail bans retail pot another year

June 17, 2014 — 

VAIL — The Vail town council voted unanimously to extend its temporary ban on retail marijuana for another year in order to gather more information and observe other towns such as Aspen, who have legalized retail sales.

The town had set a self-imposed July 31 deadline to make a decision on retail sales, but council members said the past year has raised too many questions, with not enough time to answer all of them.

“I hate putting off decisions, but this is a new thing for our state,” said council member Dave Chapin. “However, we do need to make a decision within a year. Maybe we should also throw the question out there to people who come here to visit and see what they think.”

More time needed

Colorado Constitutional Amendment 64 legalized the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana in Colorado. The legislation grants local governments the authority to regulate the operations of recreational marijuana establishments, including prohibition, if desired. It passed in Vail with 75 percent in favor.

Confusingly enough, a recent community survey showed that while the majority of residents may have voted for Amendment 64, much fewer residents are in favor of allowing retail pot shops in Vail.

The survey by RRC Associates showed that when asked if they would be in favor of a retail marijuana store in Vail, 31 percent said “yes,” 57 percent said “no” and 13 percent were “unsure.”

Earlier this year, the town of Vail formed a Recreational Marijuana Working Group to identify a list of questions and issues that the town council should consider prior to adopting a marijuana policy. The group, after two meetings that also drew the attention and attendance of many local residents, prepared a list of nearly 60 questions surrounding the topic.

“We want to answer these questions, but I don’t think we can possibly do justice to either side of the debate with the time we have before the ban expires,” said council member Margaret Rogers. “We don’t have to rush into this by any means.”

Council members particularly liked the idea of observing other areas that have allowed retail sales over the next year. Aspen, Summit County and Eagle County all either currently have or soon will have retail marijuana shops.

“It doesn’t look like there are any problems so far, but it’s so new, and we just don’t know yet,” said Rogers.

Resident weigh in

The community survey, while it presented confusing numbers for officials, did show a strong divide in opinion between age groups, and second homeowners and full-time residents.

For the question of allowing a retail pot shop in Vail, if the answers were divided between age groups, those who were in their 30s or younger were overwhelmingly in favor, while those 65 and older were staunchly against.

One Eagle County resident, Barbara Allen, said that the town would not be in line with its support of health and wellness if it allowed retail marijuana.

“You either support wellness or don’t. And supporting marijuana is not,” she said. “My other issue is safety and being family friendly. If other ski areas adopt this but Vail doesn’t, those people will come here and Vail can bill itself as family friendly.”

Retail marijuana in Eagle County

Outside of Vail, eight retail licenses are currently being considered in Eagle County. Of those, five are in Eagle-Vail’s commercial area, one of the few areas with the proper zoning and setbacks in the county.

County Manager Keith Montag said that some anecdotal evidence and research is showing that counties that have allowed retail marijuana aren’t necessarily seeing the problems they expected.

“We were at a counties conference, and it seems like from people we’ve talked to, especially over at Summit County, they’re not seeing the problems we’ve debated about,” said Montag.

County officials said that they’ve even seen some studies that indicate legalizing marijuana might actually have positive effects.

One study showed that the number of vehicle fatalities and underage use had actually gone down in areas that legalized marijuana, suggesting that people might be substituting marijuana for alcohol, or that people were choosing to stay at home and use marijuana instead of going out.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at mwong@vaildaily.com.

Public hearing on retail pot in Vail is Tuesday

June 16, 2014 — 

VAIL — A public hearing has been scheduled during the Tuesday, June 17 Vail Town Council meeting to continue discussions regarding policy options on the topic of retail marijuana sales. The item is listed sixth on the meeting agenda, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers.

The Vail Town Council will be reviewing a list of nearly 60 questions and issues forwarded by members of a 16-member working group that has been convened by the town to explore the topic. Representing various organizations throughout the community, the working group has met twice to help shape the public policy discussion.

Passage of Amendment 64 by Colorado voters in 2012 establishes a wide spectrum of options for local governments to consider, ranging from a prohibition on the operation of retail establishments to regulations reflecting the extent allowed by state law. A moratorium is currently in place, adopted previously by the town council, which bans retail sales in Vail. The moratorium expires on July 31.

During the meeting, Community Development Director George Ruther will present an update on the working group’s activities, review results from the Town of Vail community survey and provide information on retail sales policy decisions that have been made in surrounding jurisdictions. Following Ruther’s update, members of the public will be invited to offer their opinions and suggestions.

The discussion will be used to determine next steps in the information gathering process and to formulate a formal recommendation to the town council.

To forward comments to members of the Town Council in advance of the meeting, email towncouncil@vailgov.com. For additional information, contact Ruther at 970-479-2145 or gruther@vailgov.com.

Eagle County issues eight retail marijuana licenses

May 16, 2014 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — A longtime local business family landed one of Eagle County’s rare retail marijuana licenses.

Jim and Kristin Comerford will add The Vail Bud Brewery to their roster of local businesses, which includes Subway sandwich shops, Vail’s Qdoba Mexican Grill and a real estate development company. They’ll partner with another local dispensary owner, Dave and Dieneka Manzanares of Sweet Leaf Pioneer in Eagle.

“We believe it is the new frontier,” Kristin Comerford said.

Jim and Kristin heard about it four months ago, so Jim visited a friend who had opened a retail shop on the Front Range.

He saw the possibilities, but didn’t know anything about the marijuana industry, so he attended the MMJ Business Academy, where he learned enough to get started and added those lessons to decades of retail experience.

“Being a retailer for 34 years in Vail, I went around to a couple new retail business in Denver, and did not see the kind of retail presentation that made me confortable,” Jim Comerford said. “We felt we could bring our retail expertise to this.”

They say they’re planning an upscale shop with high end finishes. They’ll have a small growing operation next to the retail shop, giving customers an experience similar to a brew pub where patrons can see beer being brewed.

“We plan to have an extensive and unsurpassed level of inventory that people can choose from,” Jim Comerford said.

Three medical marijuana businesses already in the valley were also awarded retail licenses: Treeline Premier in Eagle-Vail, and Holistic Healthcare and New Hope Wellness in Edwards.

In addition to The Vail Bud Brewery, two other new retail licenses went to Native Roots Apothecary and Rocky Road Remedies, both Front Range-based businesses.

Native Roots Apothecary is a two-person shop. Rhett Jordan and Josh Ginsberg comprise J&R Partners based in Denver/Boulder. They already operate a retail shop in Summit County.

Rocky Road Remedies is based in Colorado Springs. They have multiple shops and grow operations in the Colorado Springs area. They’re also a two-person partnership, Thomas Bowler and Renze Waddington.

“It seems that a lot of people from out of town trying to get licenses. We’re proud to be a local business,” Jim Comerford said.

Setting the bar high

When the Board of Commissioners gave the green light for retail sales of marijuana in Eagle County, they approved eight total licenses — six in the Eagle River Valley and two in El Jebel.

Eight Eagle River Valley applicants took a shot at those six licenses, seven from Eagle-Vail.

Three licenses were already reserved for medical dispensaries already operating in the Eagle River Valley, so that left three up for grabs in this end of the county.

“It’s not an easy business and you have to approach it with a professional background and some backing,” said Scot Hunn, senior planner with Eagle County, who rode herd on the county’s application process. “The ones who made application and were selected set a pretty high bar.”

Hunn said everyone met all the criteria – 200 foot setbacks from schools, residences, day care centers, rehab centers. A 500-foot buffer from high schools eliminated Edwards Station, where Wendy’s is located, because of its proximity to Battle Mountain and Red Canyon high schools.

All six selected have expressed interest in working with the schools and youth organizations working with kids, Hunn said.

They had to submit an employee training plan before they could get their licenses. Among other things, they had to outline the steps they’d take to avoid selling marijuana to people under 21.

They have until July 2 to complete the state’s application process. If they don’t, the license goes on down the line to someone else.

New Hope has already applied for their retail license, Hunn said.

Until these new retail shops open, the Manzanares’ Sweet Leaf Pioneer is the only retail shop in the valley. Their grand opening is Saturday.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Avon takes moves to ban retail marijuana

April 28, 2014 — 

AVON — Town Council members took the first step toward banning retail marijuana sales and grow operations at the April 22 meeting, passing on first reading an ordinance that would ban retail and grow operations in town.

The council voted 6-1 for the ban, with council member Jake Wolf casting the lone dissenting vote. In casting his vote, Wolf noted, as he has in the past, that more than 70 percent of town voters in 2012 voted to approve Amendment 64, the state constitutional amendment that legalized the possession and consumption of marijuana by people 21 and older.

The amendment also gave towns and counties the authority to either approve or deny retail sales. Eagle County and the town of Eagle are currently the only local jurisdictions that have approved retail sales and grow operations. Like Vail, Avon had enacted a moratorium on applications for retail and grow licenses in town. But, facing a June 1 deadline to either extend the moratorium or enact a ban, Avon’s council chose a ban.

Contacted after the meeting, council member Chris Evans said he doesn’t believe voting for the ban on sales violates the will of town voters.

Avon’s Image

Use in town is still allowed, Evans said. In addition, there are few locations in town where zoning might allow a shop, Evans said.

What Evans didn’t say is that there will almost certainly be two or more retail operations in Eagle-Vail in the near future.

Both Evans and Mayor Rich Carroll said they voted for the ban at least in part because of the image town officials are trying to create for the town.

Carroll said the town is working to be a complement to Beaver Creek, as well as a place that families want to visit and live in.

“I don’t think retail (marijuana sales) enhance that goal,” Carroll said.

Second reading of the ordinance — which would grant final approval — is set for May 6.

Eagle-Vail dispensary to get first marijuana vending machine

April 28, 2014 — 

EAGLE-VAIL — Greg Honan thinks he might be blazing a new trail in the medical marijuana business. Stephan Shearin hopes he’s right.

Honan is the owner of the Herbal Elements medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle-Vail. He recently partnered with Tranzbyte, a company specializing in the technology of marijuana, to put the first ZaZZZ vending machine in the dispensary.

Nearly 200 people turned out at a recent invitation-only event at Montana’s Smokehouse in Avon to see how the machine worked. The machine had no marijuana products in it at the time — that couldn’t happen in a place with a liquor license, Honan said — but people could see how the thing will work once it’s at Herbal Elements.

Honan said it was well-received by potential customers. And he hopes those customers will find it more convenient to use when Herbal Elements gets all its required state permits and permissions and has the thing up and operating in the next few weeks.

SIMPLIFYING SALES

When it is running, Honan said he expects the machine to help his business a few ways.

First, the ZaZZZ machine provides a secure way to store items. Honan said it will help state officials with the “seed to store” tracking system. Items will also be harder to steal since the machine weighs roughly 1,000 pounds when it’s fully loaded.

The machine will also free up display space. Honan said the machine can display about 80 items in the space where 20 items now sit.

Finally, the machine can provide a more efficient way to serve clients.

Honan said new clients require a lot of time and attention to guide them through the range of medical marijuana products. A client who knows what he or she wants can come in, get an ID check in person, then another at the machine, buy the desired products and leave.

Shearin, the chief operating officer of Tranzbyte, the company that makes the ZaZZZ machine, said the company had talked to a number of dispensary operators before deciding on Herbal Elements as the first host for its machine.

“(Honan) was the first guy to really understand what we’re trying to do,” Shearin said.

UBIQUITOUS EDIBLES

The goal, both Honan and Shearin say, is to further normalize the marijuana business. Shearin equated using the ZaZZZ machine to self-checkout areas at grocery or home-improvement stores. And, he added, the ZaZZZ machine will be a good way to make more edible products available. That’s another area Tranzbyte is working in, Shearin said.

“We really see edibles as where the market is going,” Shearin said. “We think most people want that in the future.”

While the ZaZZZ machines will go to medical dispensaries initially — Shearin said Tranzbyte already has numerous orders — Honan sees an opportunity for the machine to have an effect on the recreational marijuana business, too. There could be a day when a dual operation such as the one envisioned for Herbal Elements has a machine for medical products in one half of the operation and a machine for recreational products in another part.

“It really helps in taking out human error,” Honan said.

“The machine is really spurring conversation,” Shearin said. “Let’s get people talking about what (the marijuana business) means.”

Tabernash resident floats ideas for marijuana co-op

April 24, 2014 — 

TABERNASH — Agritourism is new a way to experience Colorado’s unique heritage, and now a Grand County group is trying to combine it with another of the state’s fascinations – legalized marijuana.

“We have fabulous marijuana at this altitude,” said Susan Kuglitsch, of Tabernash, a proponent of cannabis agritourism in Grand County. “That secret will get out quick. We’d like to (promote enjoying) it responsibly in a nice family setting.”

Kuglitsch has a vision to make Colorado’s marijuana known beyond its pot shops. She’s working to form a cannabis cooperative, or co-op, that obtains licenses to grow, process and sell both marijuana and hemp products. That budding, self-sustaining business model could also be used to draw tourists to Grand County through cannabis-based agritourism.

“Agritourism, cooperation among growers, community involvement and economic development are attainable goals,” she said.

Kuglitsch said she has around 10 members from across the county so far, but she hopes to grow that number to 100 by the end of the summer. Once she secures enough founding members, Kuglitsch said the co-op will begin working on a for-profit business plan.

She expects much of that profit to come from cannabis tourists to the county. Kuglitsch pointed out that many people already visit the state because of its legalized marijuana, pointing to the recent 4/20 celebrations as an example.

“Many people travel to Colorado to openly use cannabis and to explore the healthy and rugged lifestyle,” Kuglitsch said. “We want to show (cannabis) is a productive aspect of our economy, beyond just pot shops.”

According to the Colorado Tourism Office, one of its major initiatives is to “raise awareness and appreciation for Colorado’s heritage tourism assets.” It partnered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture in 2012 to help promote the state’s agricultural roots through “agritourism,” which includes public relations campaigns, research and advertising. Agritourism initiatives have helped connect visitors to the state’s many farms, ranches, wine-makers, Christmas tree sellers and farmers markets.

Because Amendment 64 and marijuana legalization were such landmark events for Colorado, Kuglitsch said cannabis cultivation represents an important part of the state’s cultural heritage as well. It’s not a stretch in her mind to bring it under the Colorado agritourism effort.

“I think we have to be realistic and say cannabis is now part of our economy and part of our culture,” she said. “Hopefully we can use it to bring an element of hemp, co-op farming and industry to our county to generate jobs and profit for farmers.”

The Colorado Department of Agriculture regulates the industrial hemp program, but that’s about as close as its come to associating with any form of cannabis so far. Marijuana-based agritourism has yet to be a seriously floated concept.

“I can’t say that I’ve heard of this before, as it relates to marijuana,” said the department’s Deputy Commissioner, Ron Carleton. “I’m not terribly surprised. There seems to be a lot of new things going on now that Amendment 64 is being implemented.”

Before the Department of Agriculture or Office of Tourism will tango with a cannabis-based tourism industry, it’s likely Kuglitsch’s co-op with have to go through the state’s Department of Revenue first. That department is charged with regulating retail marijuana operations.

“That would be the starting point, quite frankly,” Carleton said. “(We’d) refer them to revenue first and see where it goes from there.”

County residents looking to get involved in Kuglitsch’s cannabis co-op can contact her through her business and tourism promotion website, www.OnAPM.com.

Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

Colorado advances edible marijuana restrictions

April 18, 2014 — 

DENVER — A Colorado proposal to widen a ban on certain types of edible marijuana advanced Thursday in the state House amid concerns that it could be too broad.

What lawmakers are trying to prevent is accidental ingestion by children who can’t tell the difference between a regular cookie or gummy bear and the kinds infused with cannabis. Lawmakers also worry that officials won’t be able to know when students have marijuana at school when the drug is in the form of an edible.

“They’re hard to find, they’re hard to identify, and they’re hard to locate,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, one of the sponsors of the bill, which would prohibit edibles that mimic other foods or candies.

The bill would direct the state Department of Revenue to adopt rules requiring that marijuana edibles be clearly marked or designed to show that they contain pot. The House gave initial OK to the bill Thursday on an unrecorded voice vote. A final vote is expected next week before the Senate takes it up.

Some marijuana activists worry that the bill as written could mean that nothing that looks like food could be infused with marijuana, essentially banning any type of edible pot.

Dan Anglin, a managing partner of edible-maker EdiPure, told lawmakers that he and other companies are giving adults what they want.

“Sweet treats is what people want. Nobody’s infusing steak,” he said.

He said the child-resistant packaging that is already required works. And he noted that without its packaging, some alcohol products also can be confused for non-alcoholic drinks.

Last week during a hearing, McNulty showed lawmakers a tray with various sweets, some containing marijuana and some not, and he asked his colleagues if they could tell the difference. On Thursday, Anglin responded with his own presentation, showing lawmakers several clear plastic bottles with liquids.

“Do you think this is apple juice? This is hard apple juice. That’s liquor at 17 percent. How about this?” he asked. “This is root beer that has alcohol in it. This is lemonade with alcohol in it. Which one of these is water? Can you tell?”

But supporters of the bill say it’s a needed measure to keep pot away from children, now that marijuana is more available since legal recreational sales began in January for those 21 and older.

Smart Colorado, an advocacy group that lobbies to limit youth marijuana use, spoke in support of the bill. Rachel O’Bryan, one of the founding members of the group, told lawmakers that she hopes the bill protects her son so he “can safely accept an offer of a rainbow belt, or a Swedish fish, wherever he may be — at school, at the park, at a friend’s house or even a party.”

Police: Student ate more pot than recommended

April 18, 2014 — 

DENVER — Authorities say a Wyoming college student who jumped to his death from a Denver hotel balcony ate more than the recommended serving of a marijuana cookie.

Police reports released Thursday said 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi consumed a little more than one cookie that his friend purchased from a pot shop.

The reports say a clerk told his friends to cut it into six pieces and eat one piece at a time. The friends did so, but it’s unclear from the reports whether Pongi heard the advice.

Pongi’s friends told investigators he began speaking erratically in French and pulling things off walls. Authorities say he then jumped to his death.

An autopsy report from the March 11 incident lists marijuana intoxication as a significant contributing factor in the death.

Medical marijuana ban fails in town of Red Cliff

April 2, 2014 — 

RED CLIFF — Voters here Tuesday retained two town council members and rejected a proposed ban on medical marijuana operations.

Anuschka Bales and Tom Henderson, both current board members, were both elected to four-year terms. But the election still leaves the seven-member board short two people. Town clerk Barb Smith said the town will post the vacancies, with a 30-day period for interested people to apply for the board positions.

With just two people running for four seats, the town might have canceled the spring election, except for a resident-supported ballot measure that would have banned medical marijuana operations. There are no such businesses in town now, and mayor Scott Burgess said there are no pending applications, either.

But the town council last year approved regulations for retail marijuana operations, which prompted a group of town residents to sponsor both the medical marijuana ban ballot measure and a possible fall ballot measure to ban retail operations.

Burgess said the residents couldn’t put both measures on the April municipal election ballot due to language in Amendment 64, the 2012 state constitutional amendment that legalized the possession, growing and retail sale of marijuana for recreation purposes. According to the amendment, communities can only vote to ban retail sales and growing operations in the November general election of even-numbered years.

Town voters in 2012 voted for Amendment 64 by a wide margin — Burgess said roughly 75 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the measure. Tuesday’s vote against the ban wasn’t that decisive, but the margin of defeat was still in the 60 percent range.

Diana Cisneros, a life-long town resident who helped circulate petitions to put the medical ban on Tuesday’s ballot, said she was disappointed in the outcome.

“I worked long and hard on it,” she said. “I guess other people didn’t agree.”

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