Craig City Council passes final marijuana ordinance with a seven license limit

Craig City Council was a full council Dec. 10 after the resignation of Brian MacKenzie and the appointment of Councilman Ryan Hess.
Clay Thorp/Staff

The city of Craig cleared the way for a new medical marijuana dispensary and passed the final version of its recreational marijuana ordinance Tuesday night, raising its previous cap of three allowable recreational marijuana licenses in Craig to seven.

At their regular meeting Dec. 10, city council had some questions about Craig’s newest medical marijuana shop. Owner Natalie Ricks was on hand to answer some of council’s questions.

“What is a non-vertically integrated dispensary?” Councilman Chris Nichols asked Ricks.

“What we do is we wholesale everything,” Ricks said. “We actually don’t have a grow associated with this. It’s kind of like Walmart almost. We buy things and don’t make anything ourselves. Everything we have is sourced throughout the state from legal, licensed manufacturers. We’re a little different from most dispensaries, because most dispensaries have their own grows that they make all their products from and grow them there.”

Councilman Paul James wanted to know about Ricks’ other shops in Colorado.

“Do you guys have other stores?” James asked.

“Yes we do,” Ricks replied.

“Where are they?” James asked.

“So, we have seven in the state currently, Dinosaur, Ridgway, Gunnison, Trinidad, Georgetown and Fraser,” was Ricks’ reply. “We’re mainly on the Western Slope. We’re based out of Montrose. I’m from Colorado. We’re all from Colorado. We’re kind of smaller. We started in Ridgway and then moved to Gunnison, Dinosaur and Trinidad.”

Mayor Ogden wanted to understand their business better.

“Same business model throughout your stores?” Ogden asked.

“Yup,” was Ricks’ reply.

Council soon opened the floor to a public hearing to allow residents to speak their minds about marijuana and other items on the agenda.

Craig resident Vicki Huyser wanted council to remove the cap on the number of recreational licenses entirely and not require marijuana businesses in Craig to grow up to 70% of their marijuana here in Craig. Councilman Chris Nichols first proposed the locally-grown requirement last month. Nichols hopes by requiring recreational dispensaries to purchase locally grown marijuana, more grow operations and other marijuana-related businesses will spring up and invest in retrofitting Craig’s empty business spaces. Craig could benefit from such a marijuana boom as electricians, plumbers for irrigation systems, HVAC technicians for climate control systems inside grow operations, and other tradesman spend their money in town at hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, and other small businesses in Craig. Nichols wants to avoid allowing some marijuana-related businesses to secure ‘grandfathered’ status if council changes the ordinance in the future.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea to require that much,” Huyser said of the locally-grown requirement. “It could put somebody out of business like instantly. It’s not really that easy to start up and get going. It takes a long, long time. The other thing I’d like to say is I agree with Councilman Bohrer that I don’t think we should have a cap of three. I think that’s absurd. We don’t have any caps on any other business, so why should we have a cap on that? If we are going to do this, we should do it and set ourselves up to succeed, not fail.”

Mark Leier, who works in the marijuana industry, said he believes there should be a cap on the number of recreational dispensary licenses. 

“It pretty much killed the market for everyone,” Leier said as he spoke of Trinidad, Colo., whose city government decided not to put a cap on the number of recreational licenses. “I don’t mind extending the cap to five, seven, ten. But if you let it go without a cap, it can get really ugly quick from what I’ve seen.”

Council approved the new medical marijuana license for Rocky Mountain Cannabis for its location in downtown Craig next to Pam Young’s Sundrop Custom Framing. Moments after the new medical dispensary was approved, Councilman Tony Bohrer moved to raise the cap on licenses from three to seven, though he maintained he didn’t think there should be a cap.

“Because I know some here feel there needs to be a cap, I’m gonna move we put that cap from three to seven,” Bohrer said.

Recently appointed Councilman Ryan Hess agreed, but had a different idea on how to manage the number of potential marijuana businesses in Craig.

“I don’t agree with the cap, but I think there should be language in there that you can close off the licensing at the discretion of the licensing board. I think that is the best, happy medium between what everybody here wants. Instead of saying a number — seven, three, four — we can simply say at any time we can shut down applications after a certain number,” Hess said. “…If we have the discretion to shut down the applications when we feel necessary based on a local need, I think that fulfills the cap. We can basically self-cap it with that language.”

Councilman Nichols liked Hess’ idea.

“If we run into a situation down the road… we’re ceasing all operations,” Nichols said. “I like his approach to that.”

There seemed to be consensus among council the cap should be raised, but not eliminated entirely.

“I do think a cap is good, but I am for increasing it from three,” said Councilwoman Andrea Camp.

Councilman Paul James also seemed amenable to raising, but maintaining a cap in a way that promotes free market capitalism.

“I have been to Trinidad. It is kind of a zoo down there with dispensaries,” James said. “…That is a real problem that could occur. But I don’t want to cut out someone’s opportunity to do well in this community.”

Councilman Steve Mazzuca reminded council once they voted on the ordinance, it was law.

“Once you vote this in, it’s done,” Mazzuca said.

Bohrer’s motion passed and the cap was raised to seven with Councilman Nichols voting no.

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