Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

1 Jun 2014

Ironic–Durango City Council’s new draft ordinance on recreational marijuana retailers

Posted by Adam Howell


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A new draft ordinance on the licensing and regulation of recreational marijuana retailers in Durango contains an ironic acceptance of shops on the most southern block of Main Avenue, despite the City’s Local Licensing Authority having denied an applicant’s license there two years ago for political reasons.

City Manager Ron Leblanc and the Liquor Licensing Authority approved a license for Discount Liquors on Florida Rd, right next to Family Center daycare facility, on July 19, 2011. This, despite strong objections from numerous parents living at the adjacent Island Cove Trailer Park and objections from the Family Center’s Program Director Rachel Cameron, whose statements were acknowledged by the City. – See more at: https://horsegulchblog.com/2014/03/downtown-coffee-shop-owner-taken-aback-by-citys-desire-to-exclude-pot-shops-from-main-ave/#sthash.6Ansm5ij.dpuf
Properties owned by Jim Jackson are outlined in red. The train depot and the streets are not owned by Jim Jackson. Jackson won't rent to marijuana retailers, according to Johnny Radding, partnership owner of Durango Organics.

Properties owned by Jim Jackson are outlined in red. The train depot and the streets are not owned by Jim Jackson. Jackson won’t rent to marijuana retailers, according to Jonny Radding, co-owner and partner of Durango Organics.

City Manager Ron Leblanc and the Liquor Licensing Authority approved a license for Discount Liquors on Florida Rd, right next to Family Center daycare facility, on July 19, 2011. This, despite strong objections from numerous parents living at the adjacent Island Cove Trailer Park and objections from the Family Center’s Program Director Rachel Cameron, whose statements were acknowledged by the City. – See more at: https://horsegulchblog.com/2014/03/downtown-coffee-shop-owner-taken-aback-by-citys-desire-to-exclude-pot-shops-from-main-ave/#sthash.6Ansm5ij.dpuf

While the City Council had recently decided the draft ordinance would allow pot shops to exist in Durango’s Central Business District, the specific areas where they would allow them in the district is being limited due to spacing restrictions from schools that city officials think that the U.S. Attorney’s Office would adhere to in their interpretation of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.

Marijuana possession and distribution is still prohibited by the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has a history of asking medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools to move.

Specifically, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent the Rocky Mountain High dispensary  a letter, asking them to move, after the Animas High School moved within a thousand feet of them three years ago.

“I got a lot of heat for that, because the city is the one that takes the blame, regardless,” said City Councilor Christina Rinderle. “People are continuously misinformed, but it doesn’t change the reality of what happens here in council chambers.”

As such, Durango City Councilors and City Attorney Dirk Nelson have drafted the current ordinance to restrict retail marijuana stores from existing within 1,000 feet of any school, addiction recovery facility, or residential child care facility, or within 250 feet of any dedicated public park that contains children’s playground equipment.

Click here for a map of Durango City Council’s buffers proposed between new recreational marijuana establishments and schools, residential child care facilities, and parks with playground equipment.

Even though the City Council is looking to allow recreational marijuana retailers in Durango’s Central Business District (CBD), the existence of 1,000-foot boundaries around schools in the city largely excludes the availability of any space where recreational marijuana shops would be allowed to exist.

Even though the current draft ordinance would allow marijuana retailers to exist on the most southern block of Main Ave, it is largely owned by one person, with the exception of the train depot.

“That one block is owned by one person, and that one person is against it. Jim Jackson is against it,” Durango Organics co-owner Jonny Radding told the City Councilors. “He owns that whole block. So it’s almost a moot point that we’re sitting up here arguing about that one block because he’s not even willing to rent it to anyone.”

Radding was concerned that if one of those few owners of property where the ordinance would allow pot shops on Main Ave had decided to rent to a marijuana retailer, the owner could, in theory, jack up the rent to take advantage of that monopoly real estate.

“This restriction thing is insane,” said Radding. “Now once again, it’s going to go back to the guy that has the biggest pocket book and come in and get that one spot.”

Jim Jackson’s property manager, Sandy Medearis, did not return this blogger’s phone call.

This northern most part of Durango's Central Business District could allow recreational marijuana to exist there under the City of Durango's current draft ordinance. Correct me if I'm wrong!

This northern most part of Durango’s Central Business District could allow recreational marijuana to exist there under the City of Durango’s current draft ordinance. Correct me if I’m wrong!

After the City Council discussed spacing buffers at their last regular meeting, Councilor Brookie pondered whether recreational retailers should even be allowed in the CBD, given the fact that they already largely preclude the retailers from existing anywhere other than the southern most blocks of Main Avenue and Second Avenue, as well as the east side of Main Avenue between 14 St. and the Animas River.

While Brookie had said at previous meetings that the marijuana establishment buffer map was “a map of zero opportunity,” he proposed a restriction of no more than one pot retailer on all properties or lots that abut a street segment. The rest of the council approved the amendment and it was placed in the most recent version of the draft ordinance.

Since the City Council began drafting the ordinance, Councilor Christina Rinderle has consistently spoken against allowing any new marijuana retailers to exist in Durango’s CBD. It wasn’t until the City Council received an hour of public comments at their May 8th meeting–with all of them in favor of allowing retail stores in the CBD–that they finally decided to allow it in the draft ordinance.

Rinderle reiterated those concerns at the last regular City Council meeting.

“I don’t want to make an experiment out of our downtown,” said Rinderle. “We have a very healthy vibrant downtown that’s just coming out of economic recession. It’s vibrant. Our sales tax is up.”

“The potential costs outweigh the benefits,” said Rinderle on the idea to allow recreational marijuana retailers in the CBD.

City Councilor Dean Brookie suggested reducing all spacing buffers from schools or residential child care facilities to 250 feet, and to add a clause to the ordinance that would say that the applicant understands the risk of opening up a retail marijuana store within 1,000 feet of them.

Durango Mayor Sweetie Marbury and Chirstina Rinderle did not feel comfortable with that idea, so it was left out of the draft.

Councilor Keith Brant said that he did not want more than one or two marijuana retailers to exist on Main Avenue in the CBD.

This blogger and several dispensary owners asked the council to loosen their restrictions at the last regular meeting, while a group of 6 people that were mostly over the age of 50 years old spoke against marijuana and the existence of retailers from existing in the CBD.

“I’m sure some of those people that were against it–they go home, they have a glass of wine,” said Durango Organics’ Co-Owner Jonny Radding. “I don’t know who the hypocrite is at the end of the day.”

“The fact is, yes, it was federally illegal, but you voted for it anyway,” Radding told Councilor Rinderle, who said that she voted for Amendment 64. “So that’s hypocritical too.”

Overall, the draft ordinance has gone through some seriously positive changes since its original conception, with many policies that the public deemed as burdensome, over-reaching regulations having been taken out.

Here’s a brief list of some of the most unpopular regulations that were taken out of previous drafts:

  • A ban on all recreational marijuana retail stores and testing facilities in the CBD.
  • A 1,000-foot buffer between all recreational marijuana establishments.
  • A 1,000-foot buffer between all new recreational marijuana stores and public parks. The new draft imposes a 250-foot buffer from dedicated public parks with playground equipment.
  • A 1,000-foot buffer between all new recreational marijuana stores and daycare facilities.
  • A clause requiring licensees of marijuana establishments to submit an application to the city to register a manager of their store at least thirty days prior to the new manager’s first day of work.
  • A ban on all coupons for marijuana products.
  • A $5,000 fine for delinquently renewing a business license. It was supposed to read $500, but according to City Attorney Dirk Nelson, the extra zero that was put in there was a typo. Ask City Clerk Amy Phillips how that happened.
  • A ban on marijuana businesses in mixed-use buildings.
  • A ban on existing medical marijuana retailers in the Central Business District from grandfathering into converting to or co-locating as a recreational marijuana establishment.

The Durango City Council will be reviewing the draft ordinance again at their June 3rd meeting at 6:30 p.m. and might be voting on it. Be there!

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