Steamboat to consider allowing more marijuana dispensaries
December 12, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council will consider loosening restrictions on retail sales, cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana in city limits.
Current rules limit the number of retail marijuana stores allowed in the city to three. These license holders are required to produce 70 percent of the products they sell in affiliated manufacturing and cultivation facilities, an element of the code referred to as vertical integration.
Required buffer zones and rules about how close marijuana businesses can be to residential areas limit businesses to the west side of the city, with a few pockets of allowable areas in Steamboat's hotel corridor on the east side of town.
Rocky Mountain Remedies, a medical and recreational dispensary currently located off Downhill Drive, was denied an application to move to 410 S. Lincoln Ave. this summer.
As the crow flies, the shop would've been within 1,000 feet of Emerald Park and adjacent to a yet-to-be, undeveloped, residential area, which was 20 feet higher than the parking lot of the proposed pot shop. The dispensary and the city are currently in litigation over the denial.
In a City Council work session in which no decisions were made, the Council expressed interest in amending the code to make it more similar to the rules that dictate where liquor stores are allowed.
Though not all Council members were on board with the proposed change, a majority of Council members wanted to see an unlimited number of retail and manufacturing licenses and code changes that would allow retail marijuana stores downtown and at the base area of Steamboat Resort.
The map on the left reflects 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 the city of Steamboat Springs)
"I was up here the first time this came forward and the initial regulations were created," said Council member Sonja Macys. "At that time, I was opposed to limiting the number of licenses. I think it tends to legislate morality and also inhibit free market competition, and I think it is not appropriate. I've thought that for a very long time."
City Council wanted to keep the vertical integration requirement in the code.
In addition to this, the Council will consider the following proposed changes.
- Reducing the required buffer between schools, childcare facilities and parks and pot operations from 1,000 feet to 500 feet. This buffer would be required according to pedestrian access, not "as the crow flies."
- Establishing code that says retail shops must be 1,500 feet away from an existing store. This change would mirror rules intended to prevent clusters of liquor stores.
- Allowing retail stores in areas adjacent to areas zoned for residential use while maintaining current rules that say manufacturing and cultivation of marijuana cannot occur in a property adjacent to residential zones.
Dan Sullivan, owner of the Green Joint dispensaries in Parachute, Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Aspen, spoke in favor of increasing the number of pot shops allowed in Steamboat.
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"There are eight licensees in that market," Sullivan said. "Good for the three guys that have been here. That's terrific — divvying up the $12 million pie — but it seems a bit monopolistic."
Billo's Adam Nelson said that those in Steamboat's marijuana industry sought a stable platform to make investment decisions from. He said marijuana businesses in Steamboat have invested heavily in manufacturing cannabis products, based on the existing number of limited licenses and the vertical integration requirement.
"The pie getting divided further does provide some opportunity for slip-ups in the game," he said. "Right now, everybody that operates these licenses in town are local people, all tied in and living in the community. Opening that up to outside competition isn't a bad thing necessarily long term, but all of these things need to be approached from a goal of making some kind of continuity."
Even if the code was changed, applications for marijuana permits would undergo additional scrutiny, requiring review of individual history, plans for the interior of the building and a list including the names and addresses of those affiliated with the business.
Council directed staff to bring a discussion item forward next year regarding the proposed changes. A change to city code would then undergo a first and second reading before being implemented as policy.
"This is a work session," said Council member Scott Ford as the discussion on the topic ended Tuesday. "We're going to see more fine-tuning when we come back, and I reserve the right to be consistently inconsistent, on occasion."
The map on the left reflects current city code. The map on the right shows possible changes to the city’s marijuana code, which could open more areas in 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 the city of Steamboat Springs)