Breckenridge Town Council wants downtown free of recreational marijuana shops
December 31, 2013
The Breckenridge Town Council approves of recreational marijuana sales — just not in the family-friendly downtown area.
The council on Tuesday night discussed an ordinance addressing the regulatory framework for local retail marijuana licenses during an afternoon work session.
The council determined they wanted to include a mandate in the ordinance that the only medical marijuana dispensary located in downtown Breckenridge — Breckenridge Cannabis Club — must move when their current lease on Main Street expires. Breckenridge Cannabis Club owners could then apply for another license in a new location, whether medical, retail or both. The Cannabis Club has been operating since January 2010. The owners of the club could not be reached for comment at press time.
At the 7:30 p.m. regular meeting, the council unanimously approved the original first reading of the ordinance, with none of the changes discussed at the work session, in order to pass the ordinance along to a second reading at the next council meeting. The second reading will include the discussed changes, such as mandating the downtown shop move out of its current location at the end of its lease, no limits on the number of licenses and extended time to allow for transfer of ownership. There is a public hearing at the second reading of every ordinance.
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe left during the discussion of the downtown dispensary's future, claiming a conflict of interest since her husband is involved in the sale of the building in which the club is located.
In April, Summit County Commissioners unanimously decided to allow recreational marijuana and retail sales, after Amendment 64 passed in Colorado last November. Amendment 64 gave local governments the option of overriding the measure, keeping retail marijuana sales and recreational use illegal.
Councilman Mike Dudick argued that allowing the current downtown location to operate with retail sales artificially inflates the value to their license because of its prime location.
"I don't want it on Main Street," he said. "I don't care if there's seven or 15 on Airport Road, but there should be nothing else in the downtown district."
However, councilman Ben Brewer wanted to leave the downtown location as is, not wanting to put the current medical dispensary out of business.
"If there's no public safety issue, then I don't see why we need to fix a problem when there is none," Brewer said.
The ordinance proposes prohibiting the licensing of any new medical marijuana businesses or retail establishments in the Downtown Overlay District in the future as well.
Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamney argued that while "retail sales is a game changer," the downtown business should be limited to remaining only a medical marijuana dispensary.
Councilmen Dudick, Mark Burke, Gary Gallagher and Mayor John Warner agreed in a majority decision to support putting a time limit on how long the dispensary can remain downtown in their current location, in line with its current lease.
"It doesn't fit our brand," Warner said. "I'd rather maintain our image going forward and put an [end] date on it."
There are currently five medical marijuana licenses issued in the Breckenridge area. Those five businesses will be able to apply for a retail license starting October 1, and beginning January 2015 newcomers will be able to apply for retail licenses as well.
The council did not want to limit the number of licenses, even though they considered a maximum number of seven. The councilmembers agreed that competitive market forces would take of the number of shops, since they are all virtually limited to Airport Road under location guidelines.
From October until December 2014, owners of current shops would be allowed to transfer their ownership, selling their medical marijuana establishments. The new owner would then have to go through the same vetting process for retail approval. This idea was met with approval, councilmembers explained, because it would not affect the number of licenses being given out.
The ordinance allows a medical marijuana business to be located at the same location as a retail marijuana establishment, if they meet local and state regulations, including separate inventories and separate entrances if selling medical marijuana to people under the age of 21.
The council also agreed that there would be no licenses issued for marijuana testing facilities, which would test potency in accordance with state law, and extended hours of operation for dispensaries to 10 p.m.