Craig Council planting seeds for marijuana grow operations
Editor’s note: This report has been corrected to reflect Pam Young is the owner/operator of Sundrop Custom Framing on Yampa Avenue and Rocky Mountain Cannabis has put in an application with the city of Craig.
A week after voters passed all three of Craig City Council’s marijuana ballot initiatives, council continued their work on the city’s new recreational marijuana ordinance at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12.
The city has been working on their marijuana ordinance for months in anticipation of voters going to the polls last week. The ordinance would include a 4% variable tax on recreational sales inside city limits that would go to the Craig branch of the library and the Museum of Northwest Colorado for five years, though many on council believe the tax should begin at zero to remain competitive with other cities.
The ordinance would also allow council the discretion to revoke an establishment’s recreational dispensary license if that dispensary commits a single identification infraction, like those found during enforcement sting operations conducted across the state by Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED).
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“This is the ordinance we’ve been working on for the last several months,” said City Attorney Sherman Romney Tuesday night.
Within a few moments of taking up the marijuana ordinance, Councilman Chris Nichols thanked community members and city staff who helped with the ordinance before making a motion to require recreational marijuana dispensaries in Craig obtain and sell at least 70% of their marijuana from local producers. Nichols reminded those in attendance Tumbleweed CEO Mark Smith told council such a 70/30 requirement would not affect his decision to set up shop in Craig as long as he was given at least 24 months to implement it.
“They didn’t want to invest the money per se, but it still didn’t affect their decision to move here,” Nichols said.
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 mentioned he wants to avoid allowing some marijuana-related businesses to secure ‘grandfathered’ status if council changes the ordinance in the future.
“I would like to see the grow houses happen,” Nichols said. “If we don’t get this in before we begin handing out licenses, we may never get any grow houses.”
Councilman Paul James was not having any of it.
“I have a huge problem with that,” James said.
James said such a policy would make marijuana in Craig more expensive.
“I think that it will artificially increase costs to the consumer,” James said. “…I see it’s a good intention, but I don’t see that as a viable option.”
Nichols pointed out he asked one of the most successful marijuana operations in Steamboat Springs what they thought about requiring locally grown marijuana in recreational dispensaries and they told council such a policy is exactly why the industry is thriving in Steamboat Springs.
“That’s why I asked the operators,” Nichols told James. “…This would bring another industry to Craig, the cultivation side, by requiring it to happen.”
Councilman Tony Bohrer pointed out such a policy did nothing to stifle the area’s marijuana industry.
“In Steamboat it didn’t hinder anything,” Bohrer said.
Bohrer also wants marijuana grow operations to be headquartered in Craig.
“If they want to be an independent grow operation, they can be local,” Bohrer said.
James doesn’t want to over-regulate marijiuana-related businesses.
“I don’t think we should force people to sacrifice efficiency in the name of creating jobs that don’t necessarily need to be there,” James said. “I think the jobs will come. I think people will already be using these contractors to get this work accomplished so they can set up grows.”
James said comparing Craig to Steamboat is folly.
“Steamboat is a different market,” James said. “They can charge way more over there.”
Bohrer took James’ point and said they should capitalize on such high prices as Craig and Moffat County residents could buy for the same price in Craig without having to spend gas money driving to Steamboat Springs.
“So, we could charge the same amount as they charge and they’d still save money,” Bohrer said.
Council eventually turned to City Manager Peter Brixius to get his opinion on Nichols’ 70/30 motion. Brixius thought 70% was a bit high.
“I thought 50 percent was a good target,” Brixius said. “…I’m concerned about the two-year time frame and the percentage.” This led to Nichols eventually amending his motion and lowering the local marijuana requirement to 50% with a three-year compliance window. Bohrer agreed with Nichols.
“I would think 50 percent would be plenty,” Bohrer said. “… I also think it should be three to five years.”
Nichols reiterated he was making the motion based on the businesses that’ve been successful because of a local marijuana requirement.
“After talking to operators, the people who have invested in these businesses is where we’re getting this information,” Nichols said.
Eventually, the motion went to a vote and Nichols’ motion was defeated with Councilors Andrea Camp, Paul James, Steve Mazzuca, and Mayor Jarrod Ogden voting no.
CRAIG’S THIRD DISPENSARY
City Clerk Liz White confirmed to the Craig Press Tuesday night she was close to completing her review of an application from Rocky Mountain Cannabis to be Craig’s third dispensary with a location at 535 Yampa Avenue next to Pam Young’s Sundrop Custom Framing. White said a public hearing has been scheduled for council’s regular meeting Dec. 10.
Council addressed a portion of its marijuana ordinance Tuesday allowing a lottery of sorts to decide who will get one of only three recreational dispensary licenses if more than three businesses apply. City attorney Sherman Romney was concerned about the policy.
“We may end up with some very qualified candidates who’ve already invested money into this community not receiving a license for retail,” Romney said.
To fix this, council gave some guidance to Romney advising him to redo the ordinance to allow existing medical dispensaries in Craig — like Shaun Hadley’s Craig Apothecary — to have first preference in obtaining a recreational dispensary license.
“Shaun’s ten years should count for something,” said Councilman Mazzuca.
Bohrer said under such a policy, the city has essentially already maxed out their recreational dispensary licenses between Tumbleweed in Craig’s old Silver Building, Craig Apothecary, and now Rocky Mountain Remedies on Yampa.
“Those three will have the first right to put in Feb. 1,” Bohrer said.
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