About 60 residents attended a community meeting Wednesday, Feb. 26, at Dillon Town Hall, with the overwhelming majority pledging their support for retail marijuana establishments in town in one form or another.
However, determining appropriate locations for retail marijuana businesses was a much different conversation.
The meeting, which started at 6 p.m. and lasted until about 7:30 p.m., was moderated by Judi LaPoint, of North Star Consulting in Breckenridge. The purpose of the meeting was to gauge the community’s feelings about retail marijuana, where it would be acceptable in town and what kind of restrictions should be put in place.
However, with several members of the Dillon Town Council in attendance, LaPoint kicked off the meeting by heading off any potential questions about the recent resignations of interim police chief Brian Brady and town manager Joe Wray, saying “that is not what we are here for.”
LaPoint then launched the conversation by explaining the history of Amendment 64, which passed in 2012 in Dillon and throughout the state, and the types of marijuana establishments it permits, including retail stores and cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities.
LaPoint also briefly discussed a proposed 5 percent excise tax Dillon officials plan to present to voters during the April municipal election. Like similar initiatives passed last November by voters in Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne, funds generated by the excise tax would offset anticipated increases in administrative, law enforcement and health care costs.
LaPoint then took a straw poll of the audience to see what types of marijuana establishments local residents would support having in town. Residents favored retail stores and testing and manufacturing facilities by at least a two-to-one margin. Residents opposed cultivation facilities by a vote of 20-10, with six undecided.
The next question was where people would support locating a business, or potentially several, in town. However, using regulations passed by neighboring jurisdictions as a baseline, the audience learned there were few places in Dillon to house a retail establishment.
Generally speaking, Summit County and all of the incorporated towns require a 500-foot buffer zone between a retail marijuana establishment and child care facilities, public or private educational institutions, halfway houses or correctional institutions, and public parks, recreation centers or publicly owned buildings.
Dillon residents agreed with those setbacks, but several also voiced a desire to keep marijuana away from the town’s core areas, residential buildings, mixed-use developments featuring residential units and churches.
Bearing in mind the people voted in favor of retail marijuana, and considering the desired setbacks would essentially bar any marijuana business in town, Dillon resident Kevin Stout cautioned the town council from being inconsiderate of affected residents and business owners should they move ahead with retail marijuana by compromising one or more of the community’s desires.
“We’ve had a habit in this town for a long time of doing things without discussing it with the people who are most affected,” Stout said. “You need to make sure those people have a direct say in this, even if they aren’t at this meeting.”
The conversation then turned toward possibly implementing a 300-foot setback to open up more of the town for a future retail marijuana establishment, such as at the Dillon Ridge shopping center. But Dillon resident Sean Butson cautioned the crowd and the town council from repeating the same mistakes as several municipalities on the Front Range during the medicinal marijuana days.
Nick Brown, owner of High Country Healing in Silverthorne, elaborated on Butson’s point by citing a story from several years ago in which the federal government threatened to shut down medical marijuana shops in Denver, Boulder and several other jurisdictions because of their close proximity to schools. Although those shops were in compliance with local law, which in most places imposed 500-foot setbacks from schools, the federal government levies stiff penalties against anyone conducting drug-related business within 1,000 feet of an educational institution.
“I don’t want any of these facilities near my home or near my children and grandchildren,” Butson said. “Even if we impose a setback at 500 feet, it’s going to be up to retailers to decide if they want to run the risk of getting shut down by feds.”
After the meeting, Councilman Erik Jacobsen said he was pleased with the turnout and all of the comments voiced by members of the community. The trick now is coming up with regulations to achieve the impossible goal of making everyone happy.
“We’ve talked about where we would put retail marijuana stores in Dillon in town council before,” Jacobsen said. “What I heard, and this is just my opinion, is that the town core is out, but people seemed to be supportive of retail at Dillon Ridge or the Red Mountain Grill shopping center.”
Dillon currently has a moratorium in place until Oct.1 on both recreational and medicinal marijuana. If town council votes to lift the moratorium, it would permit only retail activity in town. Medicinal marijuana would continue to be prohibited.
After last night, Jacobsen said he thinks retail marijuana is in Dillon’s future.
“We will welcome the retail marijuana industry,” he said. “I didn’t get any indication from last night that the town or town council would want to extend the moratorium.”
“We’ve had a habit in this town for a long time of doing things without discussing it with the people who are most affected. You need to make sure those people have a direct say in this, even if they aren’t at this meeting.”