Dillon to allow walk-up marijuana sales windows
First walk-up window already installed at dispensary in Frisco
Marijuana walk-up and drive-thru windows will be allowed in Dillon, despite considerable pushback from residents afraid of potential negative impacts the new sales options could bring to town.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, Dillon Town Council approved an ordinance adding language to the town code to regulate how the windows would work. In a split 4-3 vote, council members Renee Imamura, Karen Kaminski and Steven Milroy voted against the measure. But objections from community members and a minority on the council wasn’t enough to sway the town away from allowing dispensaries to pursue the new opportunity.
“I don’t believe it’s a matter of opinion,” council member Kyle Hendricks said. “Marijuana is legal. Are we going to support our businesses or not? This is something that could help a business and the community for those who can benefit from it.”
Marijuana has been a touchy topic in Dillon over recent months. In September, Dillon approved an ordinance allowing marijuana hospitality establishments, where visitors could consume marijuana products under the supervision of dispensary employees. However, residents who chimed in largely spoke out against the move, and as conversations moved into allowing the walk-up and drive-thru windows earlier this year, voices against changes to local marijuana policies grew louder.
In January, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division issued new rules allowing licensed marijuana dispensaries to conduct sales through walk-up and drive-up windows. Dillon Town Attorney Nicolas Cotton-Baez and staff brought the change to the council’s attention, noting that the town’s codes weren’t sufficient to prevent the windows. Rather than adjusting the code to prohibit any changes, the Town Council decided to draft an ordinance that would enable them to regulate the windows.
At the meeting Tuesday, Town Planner Ned West provided council with a preview of how the sales windows would work. In short, the windows would operate similarly to going inside to make a purchase, including requiring a photo ID and capping the amount each person can buy in a day. Local codes also prohibit the display of any products or menus outside the store, so employees would have to hand out menus to those who walk or drive up.
Shannon Fender, director of public affairs for Native Roots Colorado, said dispensaries take their restrictions seriously.
“We as marijuana businesses follow very, very strict regulations,” Fender said. “… So when we have run into an instance when it looks as though people in a vehicle could be underage, we use our discretion, and we don’t sell to them if we think there is any possible risk of diversion. We could lose our license, and so we take that very seriously.”
Native Roots operates a drive-thru window in Denver, Fender said, and has been providing walk-up services at its Dillon location as a result of the pandemic. The Native Roots in Frisco has also constructed a walk-up sales window, though it’s not yet operational.
Frisco’s town code doesn’t prohibit take-out windows nor does it differentiate between windows for dispensaries and other businesses, according to Frisco’s Assistant Community Development Director Bill Gibson. He said the town did issue a building permit for the installation, but no additional permits are required and the town chose not to take any further legislative action on the topic.
Officials also noted that while they would theoretically be allowed, the locations of Dillon’s current dispensaries would likely prevent any drive-thru windows, and the town code caps the number of dispensaries in town to three.
Regardless, community members again showed up in force to oppose the ordinance, arguing that the windows would make the products easier to access for the county’s youths and damage the town’s image.
“We believe that the youth already bear the brunt of the very normalized marijuana use and a party culture,” resident Emily Mulica said. “And this will only exacerbate that. I’m not against marijuana, but this will further enhance that culture that’s so prevalent here.”
“I do not support the marijuana window ordinance, walk up or drive thru,” added Jackie Christiansen. “… I’d like to preserve the image of this town as a family-friendly community, and also I’ve looked at this and I see no real benefit to the town.”
There were a couple of supporters in the crowd, including Louis Skowyra, husband of the Dillon mayor, who argued that marijuana had already been normalized across the state and that the council should support businesses’ abilities to rethink their sales models without folding to a “vocal minority” spouting anecdotal fears.
For the council’s discussion, Mayor Carolyn Skowyra laid out some ground rules to help keep things civil after previous conversations on the topic turned quarrelsome. While the new format did help to keep talks on track, the debate didn’t change any minds.
Council members Kaminski, Imamura and Milroy stuck to their positions, voicing that while they supported the marijuana dispensaries in town, they wanted to respect the concerns of residents and stop the ordinance from moving forward.
“I feel at this time there’s so much we don’t know about it and that we shouldn’t be approving something when so many people are coming forward and don’t want it,” Imamura said. “… What’s the point in having public comment, what’s the point of having these public hearings if our council members aren’t going to listen to any of the comments and make them think their opinion doesn’t matter?”
But Mayor Skowyra — along with council members Hendricks, Brad Bailey and Jen Barchers — stood firm in her feelings, as well, noting that she believed the change wouldn’t contribute to any increase in youth marijuana use and that the only noticeable change would be an additional window on the sides of the buildings.
“I have two young children, and I coach a team of young children,” she said. “… They are absolutely my priority, and I wouldn’t be able to vote for this if I thought this would in any way put them in any harm or increase access to anything they shouldn’t have access to. … They’re not going to be able to see anymore of what’s going on in that building than what they can now. And since this isn’t a question about whether these buildings should be erased from the earth or not — it’s simply about a different method of delivering a product that has no change on the exterior other than a window — I think the responsibility falls to the parents for what a child or a youth or a young athlete is exposed to.”
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