Photo by John F. Russell
The message in the front window of Aloha’s, a medical marijuana dispensary, is optimistic about an opening in the near future. Entrepreneur Chris Ward got tentative approval from the Routt County Planning Commission to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Milner after certain conditions are met.
Steamboat Springs A medical marijuana dispensary planned for Milner recently received a tentative approval from the Routt County Planning Commission, but before owner Chris Ward can open for business he must complete a list of 17 changes to the building.
County planner Connie Staponski said the fact that it is a medical marijuana dispensary was not considered during the Planning Commission’s Thursday hearing.
Instead, the commission only considered the changes required to alter the facility from a residential area to a commercial retail space.
Some of the requirements Ward must complete before he gains full approval include a traffic study for the Colorado Department of Transportation and typical changes to the building required for any commercial space, such as handicap-accessible bathrooms.
Because the dispensary, planned along U.S. Highway 40 in Milner, is in an area already zoned for commercial use — one of just a few such areas overseen by the county — there is no other regulation or recourse for county officials, the Board of Commissioners said Tuesday.
Commissioner Doug Monger said state House Bill 1284 would have allowed the county commissioners and public more power in controlling the medical marijuana trade, but the measure was referred to committee Tuesday. The legislative session ends tonight, so if the committee does not come to a conclusion by that time, no action will be taken this session.
That will send the commissioners back to their own discussions, Monger said. The first step will be to have legal advisors draw up a list of options for the commissioners.
One option would be to initiate a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in areas overseen by the county, but such a step also would require a way to end the moratorium.
“We’ll have to see if the opportunity for further legislation next year might be a cause for us to initiate a moratorium,” he said.
In that case, the moratorium would be in place until a more definite ruling from the state was available.
Otherwise, the only way the county can regulate businesses in its commercial areas is by the land use code, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. The proposed change in Milner will not go before the Board of Commissioners, but will be handled by the Planning Department.
“Right now, we don’t have that kind of latitude” to enact other requirements, Stahoviak said.
“We can only treat them the same way we would any other type of business in rural Routt County,” she said.