Steamboat voters swing Routt County medical marijuana dispensary ban vote | SteamboatToday.com

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Steamboat voters swing Routt County medical marijuana dispensary ban vote

— The referendum to ban medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated Routt County was defeated only because such a wide margin of Steamboat Springs voters opposed it.

Nearly 52 percent of voters in the 10 precincts outside Steamboat city limits voted in favor of a ban, 1,832 to 1,717. But in Steamboat, about 59 percent of voters voted against the ban, 2,475 to 1,716. The opposition to the county ban was nearly identical to the percentage of Steamboat voters who opposed a similar question to ban medical marijuana businesses within city limits.

Defeat of the county ban allows Chris Ward to keep his Aloha's dispensary in Milner open. Ward said Wednesday that he recognized the impact Steamboat voters would have on the future of his business located about nine miles outside of city limits.

"I figured if the city passed, we would pass because the city was on the ballot, too," he said. "I thought the city would carry us through."

Accordingly, Ward said he directed most of his campaign efforts at Steamboat voters, figuring that appealing to the more politically conservative base of rural Routt County voters wouldn't help his cause.

Voters in six of the 10 precincts outside Steamboat supported the county ban while all but one of the eight Steamboat precincts opposed it. Voters in the precinct defined by the area between Fish Creek Falls Road and Walton Creek Road supported a ban by only three votes.

Notably, voters in the precincts covering the Milner area, where Aloha's operates, supported the ban.

While medical marijuana industry opponent Maynard Short, a Phippsburg resident, said he was disappointed to see such a significant percentage of voters oppose the bans, Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel said the businesses bring at least one positive to her town. Oak Creek has a dispensary and a grow operation within town limits.

"We're happy for our economy, and it helps our budget for those (businesses) to stay in," she said.

Knoebel said Oak Creek budgeted about $8,000 in medical marijuana license fees in 2012. The town also receives a small portion of its sales tax revenue from medical marijuana sales.

Knoebel also acknowledged enforcement of and education about medical marijuana businesses as future challenges for the town.

Kim Weber, the city of Steamboat Springs' budget and tax manager, said each of the city's three dispensaries pays an annual licensing renewal fee of $100. Each paid an initial one-time $400 application fee. She wouldn't disclose how much revenue the city makes from medical marijuana sales tax revenue.

Rocky Mountain Remedies co-owner Kevin Fisher said his dispensary contributes about $200,000 monthly to the local economy, including payroll for 20 full-time employees, supply costs, bills and rent.

"Looking at my expenses for a month, I spend very little outside Steamboat," he said.

Referendum 1A turnout

Referendum 1A asked whether medical marijuana businesses should be banned in unincorporated Routt County.

Precincts outside Steamboat city limits

Precinct, Yes votes, No votes

1, 172, 161

2 ,169 ,140

3, 259, 220

4, 136, 151

5, 237, 187

6, 279, 263

7, 111, 113

8, 183, 208

9, 134 182

10, 152, 92

Total, 1,832 (51.6 percent), 1,717 (48.4 percent)

Steamboat Springs precincts

Precinct, Yes votes, No votes

11, 201, 323

12, 152, 237

13, 180, 387

14, 219, 283

15, 340, 374

16, 254, 251

17, 158, 269

18, 212, 351

Total, 1,716 (40.9 percent), 2,475 (59.1 percent)

Reporter Nikki Inglis contributed to this story.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com