Eagle County issues eight retail marijuana licenses
May 18, 2014
As of Friday, Sweet Leaf Pioneer in Eagle had the only retail marijuana license in the Vail Valley. For today’s grand opening their retail prices for an eighth ounce ranged from $50-$70.
EAGLE COUNTY — A longtime local business family landed one of Eagle County's rare retail marijuana licenses.
Jim and Kristin Comerford will add The Vail Bud Brewery to their roster of local businesses, which includes Subway sandwich shops, Vail's Qdoba Mexican Grill and a real estate development company. They'll partner with another local dispensary owner, Dave and Dieneka Manzanares of Sweet Leaf Pioneer in Eagle.
"We believe it is the new frontier," Kristin Comerford said.
Jim and Kristin heard about it four months ago, so Jim visited a friend who had opened a retail shop on the Front Range.
He saw the possibilities, but didn't know anything about the marijuana industry, so he attended the MMJ Business Academy, where he learned enough to get started and added those lessons to decades of retail experience.
"Being a retailer for 34 years in Vail, I went around to a couple new retail business in Denver, and did not see the kind of retail presentation that made me confortable," Jim Comerford said. "We felt we could bring our retail expertise to this."
They say they're planning an upscale shop with high end finishes. They'll have a small growing operation next to the retail shop, giving customers an experience similar to a brew pub where patrons can see beer being brewed.
"We plan to have an extensive and unsurpassed level of inventory that people can choose from," Jim Comerford said.
Three medical marijuana businesses already in the valley were also awarded retail licenses: Treeline Premier in Eagle-Vail, and Holistic Healthcare and New Hope Wellness in Edwards.
In addition to The Vail Bud Brewery, two other new retail licenses went to Native Roots Apothecary and Rocky Road Remedies, both Front Range-based businesses.
Native Roots Apothecary is a two-person shop. Rhett Jordan and Josh Ginsberg comprise J&R Partners based in Denver/Boulder. They already operate a retail shop in Summit County.
Rocky Road Remedies is based in Colorado Springs. They have multiple shops and grow operations in the Colorado Springs area. They're also a two-person partnership, Thomas Bowler and Renze Waddington.
"It seems that a lot of people from out of town trying to get licenses. We're proud to be a local business," Jim Comerford said.
Setting the bar high
When the Board of Commissioners gave the green light for retail sales of marijuana in Eagle County, they approved eight total licenses — six in the Eagle River Valley and two in El Jebel.
Eight Eagle River Valley applicants took a shot at those six licenses, seven from Eagle-Vail.
Three licenses were already reserved for medical dispensaries already operating in the Eagle River Valley, so that left three up for grabs in this end of the county.
"It's not an easy business and you have to approach it with a professional background and some backing," said Scot Hunn, senior planner with Eagle County, who rode herd on the county's application process. "The ones who made application and were selected set a pretty high bar."
Hunn said everyone met all the criteria – 200 foot setbacks from schools, residences, day care centers, rehab centers. A 500-foot buffer from high schools eliminated Edwards Station, where Wendy's is located, because of its proximity to Battle Mountain and Red Canyon high schools.
All six selected have expressed interest in working with the schools and youth organizations working with kids, Hunn said.
They had to submit an employee training plan before they could get their licenses. Among other things, they had to outline the steps they'd take to avoid selling marijuana to people under 21.
They have until July 2 to complete the state's application process. If they don't, the license goes on down the line to someone else.
New Hope has already applied for their retail license, Hunn said.
Until these new retail shops open, the Manzanares' Sweet Leaf Pioneer is the only retail shop in the valley. Their grand opening is Saturday.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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