Group hopes to open medical marijuana operation in Oak Creek |

Group hopes to open medical marijuana operation in Oak Creek

Zach Fridell

Stagecoach resident Jacob Wise wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Oak Creek in the Circle R building at Sharp Avenue and Nancy Crawford Boulevard.

— South Routt County may have its first medical marijuana dispensary if four men get the go-ahead from the Oak Creek Town Board, but Town Board members will consider their options tonight, including a moratorium on dispensaries.

The men, who are medical marijuana providers individually, hope to band together to create a dispensary in the heart of Oak Creek. The men have rented a space down the street from Oak Creek Town Hall.

Stagecoach resident Jacob Wise, the lead applicant for the group, said the dispensary would be in the Circle R building, the former home of a bank, at Sharp Avenue and Nancy Crawford Boulevard. He said he has repaired the 7-by-9-foot vault to use for the business.

There are no current regulations for dispensaries in Oak Creek or in Colorado. Mike Saccone, spokesman for the Colorado attorney general, said dispensaries were not mentioned in state statutes. Saccone said there are "no laws technically regulating dispensaries" but that the attorney general's office would like to have the state Legislature clarify medical marijuana laws during this legislative session. The session started Wednesday.

Tonight's Oak Creek Town Board agenda item is scheduled only for discussion, but the board may take action or start creating ordinances at the meeting.

The dispensary group said it would apply for a building-use permit at the Jan. 20 Planning Commission meeting and that the Town Board would consider that permit at its next meeting.

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Wise said he hopes to have the dispensary open by Feb. 1 to meet what his partner described as an active demand in South Routt.

"South Routt has quite a few, a fairly high percentage, of people with medical (marijuana) cards," Karl Hubenthal said.

Hubenthal, Wise, Jon Wind­ham and Scott Sommerhoff provide marijuana as "caregivers" for 20 people and hope to expand. On Wednesday, Wise said he was recruiting new patients in Steamboat Springs.

Wise said he is a former real estate developer from Atlanta who lost millions of dollars when a couple of small banks crashed, and that he has a subdivision of 40 lots sitting empty in the Atlanta area. He said that because he couldn't retire wealthy, he decided to retire to a job operating a dispensary in Routt County, where he said he has owned property periodically since the mid-1980s.

"Is there anything else to sell? There are no finances to sell houses," he said.

Wise said he has never operated a dispensary before but that he is a long-term marijuana user.

"I have personally smoked pot for 40 years," he said. "I'm a habitual smoker, and I believe in it."

Wise said he has tried other calming drugs such as Ritalin, but did not get the relief provided by marijuana.

Hubenthal said he, Windham and Sommerhoff have been friends for years, and when they found out Wise was interested in opening a dispensary, they decided to join him.

"There are people in South Routt who can't always get to Steamboat" to get to a dispensary, he said.

Hubenthal said the dispensary can "help them out, as well as maybe bring some revenue into the town. Oak Creek's been hurting for a while now."

Town board considers

Mayor J Elliott said he has heard feedback on both sides of the issue with little common ground.

"It's a very polarizing issue; I just don't know," he said. "What we'll have to do is discuss it and see the ups and downs of it."

Elliott said he plans to study the issue more before he decides.

Trustee Josh Voorhis said he hadn't decided what action would be best but that he was interested to hear the discussion.

"I'm pretty open-minded on the idea of a dispensary. It does provide some needed taxes to town," he said. "There are some serious issues, though, to the dispensaries' safety and security and how we're going to address it."

The Steamboat Springs City Council on Jan. 5 adopted a resolution to allow only three medical marijuana dispensaries within the city. Two can be for-profit, and one must be a cooperative. Two dispensaries had opened before the ordinance took effect, so the law effectively barred any new for-profit dispensaries in the city.

Other Colorado towns also have seen a boom in dispensaries since the state legalized medical marijuana. The city of Denver has issued more than 300 sales-tax licenses for dispensaries, according to a Jan. 3 article in The Denver Post. That is more than the number of Starbucks coffee shops in the Denver area, the article noted.

Neighbors don't object

Owners of two businesses that share the Circle R building with the dispensary site said Wednesday that they had talked about the project with the dispensary owners and that they don't have a problem with the business.

Lawrence Jaconetta, who owns a tattoo parlor in the building, said the business could be successful as medical marijuana gains momentum in Colorado.

"As long as it generates revenue, I'm not opposed to it," he said. "Let's face it, Colorado is in the a gold rush for medical marijuana right now."

Black Mountain Tavern owner Dan Bubenheim said his next-door neighbor could even generate business for his restaurant, and he supports the idea of more business in the town.

"I think … it will create a lot of good taxes for the town," he said. "Especially in this economy, I think everybody needs everything they can, and it would be nice for the town to get that."

If you go

What: Oak Creek Town Board meeting

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Oak Creek Town Hall

Details: The board plans to appoint a new member to replace Gerry Greenwood. Town Clerk Karen Halterman said only one person — Bernie Gagne — had applied by late Wednesday afternoon, and applications were due by the end of the day.

The town also will hear a request to waive utility fee hikes for residents of the South Routt Senior Foundation and will discuss grants to buy a water tank and renovate water treatment.