Retail marijuana shops could be coming to Hayden after council drafts new ordinance | CraigDailyPress.com

Retail marijuana shops could be coming to Hayden after council drafts new ordinance

Derek Maiolo/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Hayden could see acceptance of its first retail pot shop in the coming months after the Hayden Town Council gave unanimous approval for an ordinance that would create an application process for aspiring dispensary owners. 

This represents a turning point for the town, which placed a ban on the manufacturing, cultivation and retail selling of marijuana in retaliation for statewide legalization in 2013.

“This is not going to be a blanket approval for retail marijuana in the town of Hayden,” Town Manager Mathew Mendisco was quick to mention after the Tuesday meeting. 

Instead, the ordinance would allow town officials to approve or deny permits for dispensaries on a case-by-case basis. It also would restrict where those shops could open. 

One resident, Rodney McGowen, already has his eyes on a plot of land near Yampa Valley Regional Airport, where he aims to open the town’s first pot shop. He made a formal request to the Town Council to allow him to do so, prompting council members to reconsider Hayden’s ban.

Residents slowly have been warming up to the cannabis industry in recent years, in large part, because of its economic promises.

The town loosened its restrictions in 2016 when voters approved marijuana grow operations and an excise tax on the industry. An ordinance still prohibits the sale of retail and medicinal marijuana, which would be amended following the council’s decision Tuesday night.

Council member Zach Wuestewald supported the amendment on grounds it could funnel more money to the town.

“You’re gaining sales tax to benefit our community from people who are not from here,” he said. 

He saw an added benefit in that many customers would be tourists coming from the airport who otherwise might not spend money in Hayden.

Mayor Tim Redmond saw retail marijuana as a way for the town to grow and prosper. He discussed public works projects that could be funded with the tax revenue and how the development could usher more businesses to Hayden, namely a hotel and drug store.

“I’d like to get us to the point where we can have those kind of services here,” he said. “Something starting to develop out at the airport may get that all started.”

Several community members gave comments at the meeting and were, for the most part, supportive of retail marijuana sales — mostly because of the revenue it could bring to Hayden. 

McGowen even took to the podium to explain the benefits he imagines his proposed pot shop would bring. 

“Activity breeds activity,” he said, envisioning a dispensary as the springboard to more growth. “Maybe it’ll bring that hotel.”

McGowen also underscored how retail pot could provide a wealth of public funds, pointing to the success of Steamboat, which raked in almost $500,000 in tax revenue from marijuana sales at its three dispensaries in 2018.

Longtime Hayden resident Joe Kenady saw no reason Hayden should sit back while other towns in Colorado reap the rewards of marijuana legalization. While he has not always been so supportive of the industry, it has not caused the fallout that many expected. 

“We live in a state where it is legal, and our state hasn’t turned into a zombie state,” he said.

One resident, Brian Hoza, took a more critical approach, voicing several concerns how dispensaries could change the image and culture of Hayden.

“Families are moving here because of the safety of the streets and communities and the feelings of unity,” he said. “I think we need to be stewards of that.”

He serves as president of the town’s school board and worries that students could perceive marijuana as less dangerous if it becomes more permitted. 

Following the council’s decision, Mendisco said the next steps are to draft the new ordinance with the help of the town’s attorney and police chief before bringing it before council members. He expects the new ordinance to be finalized in the next month or two.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.