Steamboat council seeks to eliminate three-license marijuana dispensary provision |

Steamboat council seeks to eliminate 3-license marijuana dispensary provision

A flowering marijuana plant grows. (File photo by John F. Russell)
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Proposed code changes to Steamboat Springs’ marijuana code would open up more of the city to recreational pot shops.

Current rules limit the number of recreational licenses in the city to three, and license holders are required to produce 70 percent of the products they sell in affiliated manufacturing and cultivation facilities. Zoning codes also close off most of the city to marijuana businesses, allowing a few pockets of shops on Steamboat’s west side and south side hotel corridor.

In a work session Tuesday, Steamboat Springs City Council members directed staff to draft an ordinance that would eliminate the three-license provision, opening the city to more dispensaries.

Under the current proposal, the city would not limit how many permits are available in the city, though each application for a permit would undergo two public hearings at city council to gain council member’s approval. A merit-based approval system could also be implemented.

A 1,500-foot buffer would also be required between stores, which would limit how many additional dispensaries could actually operate in city limits.

Council sought to maintain the vertical integration requirement but mandate that grow and manufacturing operations are located within the areas of Routt County where those operations are allowed.

The following changes are also being proposed:

  • The buffer between dispensaries and parks, schools and child care facilities would be decreased from 1,000 feet to 500, which would open up more parcels in the city to dispensaries.
  • Dispensaries would be allowed in areas in the gondola-zoning district, all of which are near the Steamboat Resort base area.
  • They would not be allowed on Lincoln Avenue in downtown but could be allowed on side streets.
  • The city would also allow dispensaries on commercial parcels adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

The map on the left reflects the current city code. The map on the right shows possible changes to the city’s marijuana code, which could open downtown Steamboat to pot shops. In this map, black denotes areas where marijuana businesses are not allowed. The colorful areas of the map could be open to marijuana businesses. (Map courtesy of the city of Steamboat Springs)

Representatives of existing dispensaries in Steamboat spoke against opening up the town to more licenses.

Emily Kelley, a lawyer who represents Golden Leaf, said the fiscal impact to the city in enforcing the vertical integration requirement and reviewing more applications would put more pressure on the city.


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Paul Franklin, a co-owner of the Steamboat dispensary Billo, advocated against allowing more licenses, stating that based on a Steamboat Pilot & Today poll, the majority of the community does not want to see additional dispensaries in town. He also asked council to consider the visual impact of a dispensary, which would be required to have screened windows, and the parking impacts.

“Dispensaries are a quick trip location,” he said. “Most customers spend an average of five to 15 minutes in a dispensary. Please imagine the parking nightmare that would create having a dispensary downtown.”

Dan Sullivan, owner of the Green Joint dispensaries in the Roaring Fork Valley, said he would like to expand into Steamboat, but that a vertical integration requirement stipulating that the greenhouses and manufacturing must take place in Routt County would be cost-prohibitive for his company to expand into the area.

“I know no other municipality that has that integration on retail,” he said.

Mark Wellstone, owner of Oak Creek’s Blue Heron Dispensary, also expressed interest in opening a location in Steamboat.

The proposed changes will be considered in an ordinance planned to be presented at a later date.

To view the meeting in which this topic was discussed, visit

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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