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City considering options if additional pot shops are not open |  Western Colorado

City considering options if additional pot shops are not open | Western Colorado

City considering options if additional pot shops are not open |  Western Colorado

The Garage, the first retail marijuana store in downtown Grand Junction, celebrates its soft opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 18. Craton Edwards, one of the four co-owners of The Garage — 545 Colorado Ave. — was concerned about another business Owners on Colorado Avenue would look down upon a dispensary, but he said the opposite has proven to be true with other business owners being accepting of the new business. Larry Robinson/The Daily Sentinel

With half of the possible 10 retail marijuana stores allowed in Grand Junction having opened more than one year after the City of Grand Junction awarded retail marijuana business licenses via a lottery, City Council has begun discussions on what to do if businesses still aren’t open after another year.

Stores were given one year to open after a lottery to select 10 licenses held March 30, 2023. The city’s marijuana regulations allow for the possibility of up to one additional year.

The most recent store to open is The Garage at 545 Colorado Ave., which opened in April. It joined Native Roots, Lucky Me Dispensary, Colorado Weedery and Grand Junction Greenery as the retail marijuana stores opened in Grand Junction. Five more stores have yet to open: Golden Rookie at 605 Grand Ave., The Buzz at 1022 North 3rd St., The Green Horizon at 739 Horizon Dr. Unit B, Kai Dispensary at 914 South Ave., and Canna Care at 2730 US Highway 50.

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Four applicants for retail marijuana stores in Grand Junction received extensions to open at a hearing Wednesday, with two more extension applications…

In March, all five yet-to-open stores received extensions on the one-year deadline to open set in the regulations, with The Green Horizon getting a six-month extension, Canna Care getting a seven-month extension, and Kai Dispensary, Golden Rookie and The Buzz getting one-year extensions.

After that year, however, according to City Attorney John Shaver, there is nothing in the city code that says what happens if that 24-month period expires and stores still aren’t open.

“There is no additional extension in the code at this time,” Shaver said. “So is this really ‘what do we do?’” We don’t have to do anything other than if you had expectation that we start writing the code and/or doing some messaging in anticipation of when these extensions expire.”

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What a difference a year makes.

Ultimately, the council decided to wait until more information is available about which stores are open or close to opening before deciding how to proceed.

City staff presented five options to council at a workshop on Monday. Those options were monitoring the status of the yet-to-open stores and reporting back at a later date, amending the city’s code to provide additional time for extensions, reducing the cap on the number of businesses open by March 30, 2025 when the last extensions were made. run out, amending the city’s code to retain the cap, but delaying the opportunity to apply for licenses forfeited by not-yet-open businesses until some future time, and opening an application period after each vacancy/extension expires.

Flowering marijuana plants grown by Colorado Cannabis Caregiver Matt Dible are nearing their harvest date. Dible said it’s difficult to determine how the recent influx of retail marijuana dispensaries has impacted demand for his services as a caregiver because of how new the dispensaries are and because many locals harvest their own plants at this time of year. Larry Robinson/The Daily Sentinel

Council Member Anna Stout, who argued against the 10-store cap when regulations were put in place in 2021, suggested removing the cap, saying the city should move to a regulatory framework for marijuana stores that is more similar to liquor stores and doesn’t include a cap.

“Part of the reason for putting the cap on was because there was a fear there was going to be this rush of cannabis businesses opening in town and we were going to become a cannabis destination city and I think that we have seen that that has not been born out,” Stout said.

Mayor Abe Herman argued the city not having become a marijuana destination city is evidence that the cap worked.

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“We haven’t seen a flood within the confines of the cap that we put in place, which was the purpose of the cap,” Herman said.

Stout said the city’s code and financial projections both account for 10 open marijuana stores, and she would like to see the five licensees that are not open yet continue to try and open, and if there are others who would like to try to open retail marijuana stores they should get to try, too.

“I think maintaining some level of regulation for accountability and safety and everything is great,” Stout said. “I think we have over-regulated this and some level of de-regulation would be appropriate.”

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Half of Grand Junction’s 10 planned pot shops are now open after The Garage, located at 545 Colorado Ave., opened for business earlier this month.

Stout noted that the cannabis market has cooled since Grand Junction went through the process of creating its regulations, and most of the original applicants for licenses probably aren’t in a position to start businesses today.

Council Member Dennis Simpson agreed with Stout, saying of the five licences that are not yet open, “if there was a real demand, those stores would be jumping through their you-know-what to get open. The ones that aren’t open now, they’d be raising money, they’d be doing whatever it takes, I think it’s a totally different environment, and I think it would be a mistake for us to try to keep it at 10 .”