Steamboat’s 1st permit request for retail pot store on Thursday’s city planning agenda
December 11, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs' first retail pot store won't open by Jan. 1, but it's possible that customers will be able to make their first retail purchases at Rocky Mountain Remedies a week later on Jan. 8.
Before that can happen, Kevin Fisher, who owns RK Enterprises with Ryan Fisher, must clear three hurdles in the city approval process. The first of three public hearings is Thursday when the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission will review his application for a conditional use permit to open the retail store across the parking lot from the Fishers’ existing medical marijuana operation of the same name in Downhill Plaza. Like the original medical marijuana operation, the retail store will be known as Rocky Mountain Remedies, Kevin Fisher confirmed Wednesday.
Jan. 1 is the first possible date that state law provides for existing medical marijuana dispensaries to begin operating as one of the newly permitted retail dispensaries. They still must be approved in their home municipalities.
City Clerk Julie Franklin said Wednesday that two other existing medical marijuana dispensaries are in the process of applying for a retail permit. Should all three succeed, they would fill out the limit of three under an ordinance approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council in September.
Also on Thursday night’s Planning Commission agenda is a permit application for a marijuana retail operation from Joshua Scruggs. That business would be located in the same building as his Golden Leaf medical marijuana operation. It is located at 1755 Lincoln Ave. on the city's near west side.
Franklin said Wednesday that Scruggs has not yet applied for the necessary city license, which is different from the planning permit.
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A third bid by Natural Choice also has entered the approval process, Franklin added.
After the Planning Commission makes its recommendation about the suitability of the Fishers’ proposed operation in a light industrial park off Elk River Road, City Council is scheduled to weigh in on the permit Dec. 17. Should council vote to approve the permit, council members will convene again after the holidays on Jan. 7 as the Marijuana Licensing Authority to decide whether or not to issue the required license for the new retail store. The premises must also be complete and pass an inspection before opening.
New retail pot stores are rolling out gradually in other portions of the state.
The Denver Post reported Dec. 9 that although 118 prospective pot shop owners are engaged in the city of Denver approval process, it expects only five to 10 will be open Jan. 1, when existing medical marijuana dispensaries are first allowed to begin a retail operation. Business people who do not already run a medical marijuana dispensary are not eligible to open a pot shop until July 1.
Fisher said city staff has been cooperative in his efforts to acquire the necessary permits, but the need to fit into Planning Commission and City Council calendars in the midst of the holidays (City Council will not meet Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, which fall on regular meeting nights on Tuesdays) and to properly give public notice of the meetings in the Sunday newspaper made it difficult to accomplish everything in time for New Year's Day.
"We would have loved to be open Jan. 1, but if you had told us two years ago we might be open with a retail marijuana store on Jan. 8, 2014, we wouldn't have thought it was possible," Fisher said. "So even though we wanted to be in business that week, we're years ahead of the initial guidelines everyone thought about."
Fisher said the products offered at the new retail store would be very similar to those offered in the medical dispensary, with some limitations on the amount of THC (active ingredient) that can be sold in infused products at retail.
He said current indications are that local customers who have been approved by physicians to use medical marijuana are not going to abandon their licenses.
"That just hasn't been the case," Fisher said.
The tendency for medical marijuana users to renew their licenses is likely due in part to the fact that taxes on retail purchases will be higher than those on medical pot. Colorado will impose a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale sales of recreational marijuana and an initial 10 percent sales tax on the retail price. And Fisher said that is a de facto tax on tourists.
And with regard to tourists, Fisher said he explored the possibility of locating his new retail marijuana store in a building between downtown and the ski area in order to be closer to clientele visiting from other states but decided that plan likely would meet with too much resistance.
"We won't be shy about promoting our services to the resorts and make shuttle drivers aware," Fisher said.
Ultimately, he said he thinks people always have come to Steamboat and found a source of marijuana by going to bars and "asking 10 people" where to find it. Now, those people will come to a retailer, and he promised to educate his customers about the limits of the Colorado law.
"We are going to have an active campaign on the dos and don’ts," Fisher said. “We'll make sure they know this isn't Amsterdam, and you don't walk around with a joint hanging out of your mouth."