Going for the green: Craig residents head to Steamboat to purchase recreational marijuana
January 10, 2014
Amber Flannery, lifelong resident of Craig, took her last drink of alcohol in 2012. Drinking is too destructive, she said. But she does smoke weed, and was excited to stand in line Friday to make a legal purchase at Steamboat Spring's Rocky Mountain Remedies.
"Alcohol causes problems. It does," she said. "Weed doesn't. It mellows people out."
She and her sister, Ashlee, also from Craig, made the trip to Steamboat Springs because they couldn't legally make the same purchase in Craig.
In February 2013, Moffat County passed a yearlong moratorium on recreational marijuana sales. Craig City Council followed suit in August, unanimously passing its own ban.
Since the county's moratorium is up, county commissioners are working on a permanent ordinance that would ban recreational sales. The commissioners heard the first reading of the ban in December and will vote on it in an upcoming meeting.
While it is legal to grow, smoke, consume and even drink marijuana products in the privacy of your own home in Moffat County, because of the city and county's bans, residents cannot open a retail pot shop. Yet a medical marijuana shop exists in Craig, called the Apothecary. But in order to purchase from the Craig medicinal store, consumers must have a medical marijuana card prescribed by a doctor and approved by the state.
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Flannery doesn't have a medical card, so her only legal weed-buying option involves heading east to Steamboat.
Rocky Mountain Remedies is the first shop in Steamboat Springs to sell recreational marijuana — and since the shop opened its doors Wednesday to recreational users they've been overwhelmed with business.
Christian Boeri, staff at Rocky Mountain Remedies, calls himself a "bud-tender." Lines extended out the doors for the first two days of business, and they saw more than 500 customers, he said.
It was quieter the day Flannery made her purchase, but customers were steadily streaming in. The maximum amount of marijuana a state resident can purchase each day is one ounce, and out-of-state customers can get only seven grams. Rocky Mountain Remedies is open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., seven days per week, to persons older than 21.
Shaun Hadley, owner of Craig Apothecary, admits he is envious of Rocky Mountain Remedies. While Rocky Mountain Remedies business has been exploding, his has been dwindling.
"Our sales are going down," he said. "We have undoubtedly, already, seriously suffered."
Medical marijuana is cheaper than recreational: it's not taxed as highly. But Hadley's concern is that Steamboat smokers who ventured west to his shop now may stay in their own town to make pot purchases.
That is only one of the reasons Hadley strongly contests Craig City Council and Moffat County Commissioners' decision to ban recreational marijuana sales. It could bring business to Craig, he said.
"Craig City Council is always clambering for money, and here it is, waiting to be made," he said.
Amendment 64, the amendment that made the use and sale of recreational marijuana legal in Colorado, gives counties and municipalities the power to add taxes for recreational pot sales.
Paul James, manager of Craig Apothecary, said this would be an opportunity to capitalize on an expansive fiscal opportunity. Craig is close enough to the border to be an ideal spot for out-of-state buyers to visit and make legal purchases. They wouldn't just buy pot, James said.
However, it is illegal to take pot out of Colorado.
"They're going to come here and spend money on hotels and spend money on restaurants," he said.
The hunters who come to Craig are a viable market too, James said.
"Hunters are stoners," he said. "During hunting season, it wouldn't even be time for us to open yet and they'd be here."
Craig Apothecary couldn't sell to many hunters because it can sell only to Colorado residents with a medical card.
Marijuana tourism is exactly what members of Craig City Council said they didn't want to cultivate.
City Councilmember Ray Beck is confident the council did the right thing.
"There may have been a lot of unintended consequences coming out of it, so I think we made the right decision last year," he said. "You hear about young babies and little kids and pets getting into it and causing serious consequences, health wise."
Beck also pressed that he didn't want there to be an extra burden on law enforcement.
"It could wind up being an issue for law enforcement; maybe no different than alcohol, but I don't know that for sure," he said. "But, I don't think we need to add" marijuana.
Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz commended the council for the ban.
"I respect the hell out of them for making that stand," Jantz said.
Jantz long has cracked down on drug use in the county. That usually came in the form of busting harder drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine, but he said marijuana still was "Pandora's box."
But Amendment 64 passed, and Jantz said it's his job to respect the law.
"Do I agree with it? No," he said. "I don't have to agree with it. Until the state gets all their stuff in order, until they figure out the direction we need to go, it's not our top" priority.
James said he doesn't think the county or city's ban comes from a logical place.
"When I was in high school, it was so much easier to buy a bag of pot than to find a buyer for alcohol," he said.
Regulation is what keeps intoxicating substances out of minors' hands, he said.
That's why Hadley and James intend to form a group to appeal the city's ban.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers agreed with the wait-and-see approach the city took.
The county passed a moratorium originally to see how the municipalities would respond to Amendment 64, Mathers said. It seemed cautionary because, federally, marijuana still is an illegal substance, he said.
"We wanted to give a test. It's still against the law federally," he said. "We thought we'd just sit back a year and see what happens."
After Dinosaur voted overwhelmingly against recreational marijuana sales, Moffat County decided to follow through with an ordinance.
Mathers is a business owner in Craig and sees marijuana as a moneymaker, but he said he's been working on the ordinance and moving forward with it because Moffat County voted it down.
Even so, if the sentiment in the county changed, maybe the Moffat County Commissioners would reconsider, he said.
"Once they figure out how all this stuff works, there's nothing saying we won't chime in and allow that," he said.
Mayor Terry Carwile also said he wanted to represent the voters and their feelings on this issue.
"I think we made the right decision for the community, for sure," he said. "There was really no sentiment on Council's part to endorse making (marijuana) available for retail sale."
But that doesn't mean the city couldn't look at this issue at a later date, and it won't keep people from making those purchases, he said.
"I'm just going to assume that folks who want to obtain marijuana for recreational use will go elsewhere," he said. "On our part, we feel like that's not a bad trade off."
Flannery said she was excited to make her legal marijuana purchase at Rocky Mountain Remedies.
"I think it's awesome. I knew I'd see pot legalized in my lifetime. I just didn't know it'd be so soon," she said.
Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.