Marijuana drive-up windows spark heated debate in Dillon
Marijuana users soon could have more convenient options to purchase dispensary products in Dillon.
The Dillon Town Council is poised to adopt a new ordinance that would allow licensed marijuana stores to sell their products through walk-up or drive-up windows, a new option allowed this year due to changes to the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division’s regulations.
No official vote has taken place, but the council has decided to push forward with an ordinance at a future meeting despite a contentious debate that clearly divided council members on the issue.
Officials first broached the subject during a work session discussion Jan. 5, when the council reached consensus to pick up the talks again in more detail later on. Town staff presented council members with a draft ordinance Tuesday afternoon, which provided a first look at how the idea would work in practice.
According to the ordinance, dispensaries first would have to apply for a modification to their buildings for the addition of a walk-up or drive-up window, and the area immediately outside the windows would have to be on the dispensary’s property. Dispensaries also would be prohibited from adding any permanent menus displaying the word “marijuana” or any images of marijuana plants or products at the windows. They would also be prohibited from displaying products indoors that are visible from the window. Businesses would be allowed to hand menus to customers as they walk or drive up to windows.
Otherwise, the town’s code essentially would default to state regulations, requiring the stores to verify customer IDs and medical cards, video surveillance of every transaction, and proper packaging and labeling of marijuana products.
Of note, online orders would be accepted for medical marijuana, but not for retail marijuana. Telephone orders would be accepted for both.
Council members Renee Imamura, Karen Kaminski and Steven Milroy all opposed the idea and asked that either new language be added to the code to prohibit the windows or a moratorium be put in place on development applications until more research could be done on the windows’ potential impacts on the community.
Milroy said he supported the marijuana consumption lounge ordinance that council passed last year because education opportunities were offered to promote safe use among customers. He expressed concerns that the drive-up and walk-up windows moved in the other direction, with consumers likely spending less time speaking with budtenders.
Milroy also said the council had too many other important topics to discuss to keep returning to marijuana conversations.
“We’ve got an hour on the agenda on marijuana tonight,” Milroy said. “To me, it’s just a waste of time. I want to talk about the town core. I want to talk about why business sucks in the town core. … Why aren’t we talking about that? This is going to help one business. It might result in a few thousand dollars in sales tax revenue. I just think our priorities are off.”
Others voiced that community groups already have come out against the idea and that the council needed to heed the concerns of residents and stakeholders around the county.
“I feel that we should get more public input, and maybe a presentation, before drawing up an ordinance that allows this type of thing,” Imamura said. “… It doesn’t really just affect Dillon; it affects Silverthorne and other towns, too. … There are stats from Youth and Family Services they’d like to bring to our attention. That’s why I’d like the verbiage to say ‘no’ right now until we have more discussions and information.”
Representatives with Summit County Communities That Care, which operates under the county’s Youth and Family Services department, along with the Summit County Public Health Department both opposed the concept during the initial discussion earlier this month, citing concerns about youth substance use and impaired driving.
“Those (numbers) aren’t based on drive-up windows,” council member Jen Barchers said. “Those are based on illegal use of marijuana by underage kids. That’s going to happen no matter what. We’re talking about legal people going to these shops anyway. All we’re saying is here’s another option, just like Walgreens or a bank. …
“Let’s let our legal businesses do what’s legal, and let that moral and ethical fight be in the proper place, not at a drive-up window discussion.”
Other proponents of the change agreed that the arguments being made against the windows were based more on anti-marijuana sentiments and that improving convenience for marijuana users wouldn’t have any impact on who has access to the substance or how they use it.
“It’s legal,” council member Kyle Hendricks added. “It’s here. It’s a business trying to reach more people and make it more convenient for people who can legally buy it. We are way beyond whether or not this is the right thing to do. It’s a drive-thru window to buy a product. Period.”
Of note, the council could decide not to act at all, but officials felt that without clear language in the town code expressly prohibiting the windows, failing to make any changes would in effect serve as an approval of the new sales options.
“We don’t have a strong enough code to say one way or the other whether it’s approved or not,” Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said. “… If we don’t go forward with it, drive-up windows are allowed in our community. We would lose an argument that they’re not allowed.”
The council decided to move forward with a formal vote on the ordinance in an upcoming meeting, though some voiced strong displeasure in how the conversation unfolded.
“Some of us are saying, ’Let’s hear from people. Let’s get some more information,’” Kaminski said. “We don’t agree with this, and that’s not being heard. … I don’t think that people are treating people respectfully in this conversation, so why would I want to speak up because I’m just going to get shut down anyway? There’s no respect, and there’s no listening to anybody going on in this conversation. I’m disappointed with the way this whole thing has been handled.”
But others said continuing to argue the same points wouldn’t ultimately help to change any opinions.
“Sometimes in council, that’s the deal,” Barchers said. “If four of us agree, and we’re not going to be swayed by the additional information, then at that point that’s when we do have to say, ‘OK, we’re good. We voted.’ It’s 4-3, and sometimes, unfortunately, that’s the way it goes. … There’s only so much you can argue.”
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