Medical marijuana dispensary comes to Milner |

Medical marijuana dispensary comes to Milner

Aloha Mobile Caregivers settles into new home in unincorporated county

Zach Fridell

Entrepreneur Chris Ward has applied to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Milner. Ward's application will go before the Routt County Planning Commission on May 6.
John F. Russell

Entrepreneur Chris Ward has applied to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Milner. Ward's application will go before the Routt County Planning Commission May 6.John F. Russell

— After the Steamboat Springs City Council limited the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in city limits, one provider is opening up shop in Milner to avoid the restriction. Routt County officials, who oversee the area, say they have no plans to regulate the dispensary differently than any other business.

Chris Ward, owner of Aloha Mobile Caregivers, submitted the paperwork to the Routt County Planning Department in February and completed it in late March to open Aloha's dispensary. Ward has been operating as a mobile caregiver since at least January, with patients across the state.

The business is planned for 21600 U.S. Highway 40 in Milner, on property owned and rented to Ward by Andy Volk. That area in Milner is one of the few areas in unincorporated Routt County zoned for commercial business, and Routt County planner Connie Staponski said the dispensary would not be subject to any extra regulation. Only areas of Clark, Phippsburg and Milner are zoned by the county to allow businesses.

"We don't individualize the various retail uses; they're all treated the same, basically," Staponski said.

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Ward said the limit imposed by the City Council led him to look into opening the storefront in Milner.

"I would love to do one in Steamboat, but because of the moratorium put in place, the city was making it really tough for anybody to come in," he said.

The City Council enacted a temporary moratorium and then created final regulations limiting the number of for-profit dispensaries to two and allowing for one cooperative dispensary. There already were two for-profit dispensaries in the city when the regulations were passed in January.

To open the Milner business, Ward will have to go through the same site plan review that all other businesses are subject to, including setback, right-of-way and environmental reviews.

County Manager Tom Sull­ivan said that because the dispensaries are allowed under state law, the county does not plan to impose additional regulations.

"I don't know that we're going to do anything to restrict the number like the city (of Steamboat Springs) has," Sullivan said. "I don't believe we will."

Ward said he plans to decorate the shop in a Hawaiian theme, using things he picked up while growing up in Hawaii. He said he has had good response from several neighbors. There are several residential areas nearby, and Ward said he would keep children away.

"I think most of the parents will have a chat with their children; I don't think I should be the one to have that," he said.

As with all dispensaries, he said, people must be at least 18 years old and have a medical marijuana license to enter the business.

Ward said he has rented the space for two months and has been cleaning and decorating the place in that time. He will not be allowed to open until after the Planning Commission gives it the final OK.

"Any time in any part of the county where we have a change in use in a retail area … we don't really care about (what the business is), but we want to make sure the site accommodates those uses," Staponski said.

Ward's business is scheduled to go before the Routt County Planning Commission on May 6 for a "simple review," meaning it will not have to also go before the Board of Commissioners.

Ward had been operating as a "mobile caregiver" in a legal gray area.

As the Steam­boat Springs City Council limited the number of dispensaries in town, it also required all dispensaries to obtain a license. In January, city attorney Dan Foote said that unless Ward had a permit, which he did not, he was violating city laws any time he delivered marijuana to patients in Steamboat.

Ward said that because he delivered to patients inside their homes in Steamboat, he did not run into any problems with the law. He said that as he opens Aloha's, he will combine the businesses to still provide delivery for patients who can't leave their homes.

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