SUMMIT COUNTY - As Summit County's first bona fide medical marijuana business prepares to open this weekend in Frisco, local municipalities are mulling options to regulate the budding trade.
"I'd like to model off pharmacies," Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said at a recent town work session.
Breckenridge and Frisco have both set 90-day moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries while regulations are drafted; Dillon and Silverthorne officials are discussing the matter.
Meanwhile a business permit has already been approved for Medical Marijuana of the Rockies to open in Frisco's Crossroads shopping center.
At least two other parties want to open local dispensaries.
Breckenridge attorney Sean McAllister said a recent Colorado Board of Health decision not to cap patient numbers, the success of Front Range dispensaries and the Obama administration's decision to stop targeting operations compliant with state law affect the recent increase.
"People realize, 'Hey, this is a viable business,'" he said.
Jerry Olson, 38, plans to begin selling marijuana to legal patients from his Frisco business on Saturday.
But there won't be any sort of grand-opening celebration: The business will begin providing services by appointment only.
Cannabis cakes, lollipops, brownies and cookies may soon be available, along with a variety of smokable genetic strains of marijuana.
But Olson doesn't have any immediate plans to start a grow operation.
"I'm dealing with medical problems and dealing with opening a business - I'm not a Superman," he said.
Olson, a diabetic, has had two liver transplants - one in January. He had his colon removed in 1990. He's a patient as well as a caregiver.
"Cannabis changed my life in a very positive way," he said, adding that grappling with legal access to the herb over the past 20 years was challenging. "All the effort, everything has been worth it in regard to the rewards."
More than 100 county residents are registered for medical marijuana, and Olson intends to also serve nearby Eagle, Grand, Lake, Park and Clear Creek counties.
Though the business will be exempt from possible regulations Frisco approves, Olson said he wants to run a safe, responsible enterprise.
"I want to work with the town. I mean, we're all in this together," he said.
His dispensary is near Jazzercise and Starbucks off Summit Boulevard. He said the location was chosen because of its "limited visibility but convenience."
There are physicians' offices nearby, and he is considering eventual expansion of services to include yoga, chiropractics and massage.
A limited selection of pipes, rolling papers and vaporizers - as well as a variety of alternative health care and marijuana cultivation literature - are also to be available at the store.
Olson lives in West Vail but has partners in Breckenridge and Frisco.
Despite the recent buzz about local medical marijuana dispensaries, he said he's going into business now because of personal reasons.
"I would have started last fall if not for medical challenges," he said.
Appointments for Medical Marijuana of the Rockies - once it opens - may be made by calling (970) 668-MEDS.
Olson's business license was issued a couple weeks ago. Frisco town manager Michael Penny said that as town officials learned of potential impacts regarding the dispensaries, the 90-day freeze was set July 14.
"The idea was we need to stop these applications and think about how to regulate something new to us," Penny said.
McAllister said his nonprofit, Sensible Colorado, monitors medical marijuana legislation and "our understanding is there are currently no towns that have specific regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries."
Both Frisco and Breckenridge - which set its own 90-day freeze June 23 - are considering regulating the businesses to keep them away from schools and to keep their clients safe.
Dispensary robberies have occurred in Boulder and in California, where customers have been robbed on their way out, and illegal sales have occurred outside the businesses.
In Breckenridge, the council may regulate hours, location, on-site use and security measures.
Mayor Warner, a local dentist, said the operating hours and general nature of a pharmacy appear applicable to the marijuana dispensaries.
"You pick it up, you go home and you take your medicine," he said. "You don't drive (on) it, you don't party with it. You take it because your caregiver has prescribed it."
As for location, Front Range communities tend to have theirs in commercial zones. This is tricky for local towns with lofts, studios and apartments intermingled with businesses.
While the Breckenridge council doesn't want dispensaries in the town's core, areas along Airport Road and the shopping center that includes City Market were mentioned at Tuesday's work session.
Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, said it's "hilarious" that the town has about 45 bars on Main Street and officials are concerned about a medical marijuana dispensary.
Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman said some of the guidelines town staff presented "may be rather strict," but that "I think we're just scratching the surface" regarding arrival of such businesses.
"(They) should not be in any area of children congregating," he said.
McAllister, who also attended the session, said he and his client appreciate the town embracing legislation.
"Our main concern - we don't want regulations so strict that there is no place where this can exist," he said.
Chris Crumbliss, who wants to open a dispensary in Breckenridge, said he and his wife have about 100 patients. He started as a caregiver from home in 2003 and has "never had problems."
"We're pretty discreet about what we do," he said.
Holman said the next draft of potential regulations for Breckenridge may be back before council by Aug. 25.
The Town of Breckenridge is also facing a move to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use by adults over 21.
This is to be enacted by council on Aug. 11 or brought to the election polls Nov. 3.
"This is merely coincidence," McAllister said. "It's not some organized effort to push marijuana in Summit County."
He added that none of the people involved in the medical marijuana dispensary plans are involved in the drive to make the herb available for recreation.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or email@example.com.