Dillon considers allowing marijuana lounges
DILLON — The town of Dillon is considering moving forward with efforts to open the area’s first marijuana consumption lounge, which would give residents and visitors the opportunity to purchase and consume cannabis at the same location.
In May 2019, Gov. Jared Polis signed a new bill into law that allows local jurisdictions to opt in to new marijuana regulations — namely the development of marijuana hospitality establishments, where patrons would be able to gather to smoke or otherwise consume cannabis legally and socially.
While the new law went into effect at the turn of the New Year, municipalities around the state have largely been hesitant to jump on board with the concept, including here in Summit County where Silverthorne has already started the opt-out process and Breckenridge continues to carefully mull over their options.
Though, there is movement on a potential consumption lounge in the county. At the most recent Dillon Town Council meeting last week, officials and staff discussed the idea and decided to move forward in conversations with stakeholders in the area, including dispensary owners looking to take advantage of the new law.
“We’re obviously passionate about the plant,” said Aaron Bluse, CEO and co-owner of Altitude Organic Cannabis in Dillon, who presented council with a concept for his own bud-bar late last year. “We believe in it in all forms and facets — adult and recreational, medical, industrial with regard to help. What we’re looking at in particular with this subject is normalizing something that should already be normalized. What I mean by that is we have multitudes of places to consume alcohol in a responsible and safe manner. Within Summit County, and why it would work so well in our community, is there are no safe places to responsibly consume cannabis in a legal setting.”
In addition to other topics the council will consider — such as additional revenue, parking and the potential to draw more cannabis tourists to town — safety will undoubtedly emerge as one of the biggest concerns among community members and officials as conversations into the idea continue. In addition to ongoing efforts from law enforcement in the area to cut into the number of DUIs and crimes preceded by heavy substance use, some are also concerned with officer safety.
Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous said that he didn’t have any strong feelings either way in regard to a potential cannabis lounge, but he did voice some general concerns about his officers possibly being forced into contact with marijuana smoke or vapor.
“It’s an interesting concept,” Heminghous said. “It’s another change in the law that I never really thought I’d be discussing. When I started 26 years ago, I never thought it would reach this point. … I do have general concerns. If there is anything that’s still ingestible in the air, then I have concerns when we go in to do a bar check. Being in that atmosphere as an officer could definitely pose some health risks.”
When asked about health concerns, Bluse noted that the lounge would be fitted with an air filtration system to help keep smoke out of the air and anybody not actively consuming their products sober.
Similarly, any lounges also would have other safety standards in place, such as established limits for sales — less than 1 gram of flower, one-quarter gram of concentrate, 10 or less milligrams of THC in edibles — so that patrons would be able to easily monitor their consumption. Bluse noted he also was hoping to brush aside the “hippy lounge” or “dorm basement” aesthetic often associated with marijuana use for something more professional.
Bluse feels simply providing a space for marijuana users will make things safer for everyone.
“That’s the most common questions we get,” Bluse said. “People come in, and they’re excited, and they ask questions about all the different ways to consume. And then they ask, ‘where can I consume this?’ We don’t have a good answer.
“If you’re in the mountains, that’s national forest land. You can’t smoke in the parks or in public, and we’ll never advise anyone doing it in or around their vehicles. It’s something that’s usually not allowed in any hotel, and you’ll get a fine because of it. When you look at the options that are present, while it’s easily available to purchase and possess, this is the missing link for a disenfranchised part of the community — those that prefer cannabis over alcohol.”
At the meeting last week, the concept was met with mixed feedback. The council agreed that if any lounges were to move forward, they’d be restricted to any of the town’s three existing retail marijuana licensed facilities. Councilors Kyle Hendricks and Renee Imamura said they weren’t interested in moving forward with the idea in any capacity, though the majority voiced interest in continuing to develop the concept, even if it wasn’t an immediate priority.
“I’m open to looking at it and continuing to move forward with it just to see,” Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said. “We don’t have to be married to the idea. But I think it’s still worth exploring.”
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