Larimer County authorizes retail marijuana shops

marijuana-3000-2000-wallpaperRetail marijuana businesses will be allowed to operate in unincorporated Larimer County beginning early next year. The proprietors of two existing medical marijuana dispensaries are poised to be the first. County commissioners on Monday adopted regulations that would have nixed the two existing dispensaries based on their proximity to a church and a drug rehab center, but commissioners chose to grandfather their current locations.

“We have some people who we have some experience with,” Commissioner Lew Gaiter said. “Let’s do this slow and see how they do.”

Owners of Flower Power Botanicals and Choice Organics, both located on East Mulberry Street outside Fort Collins city limits, confirmed they plan seek the two retail marijuana shop slots allotted by the county.

Cities and counties have until Oct. 1 to begin accepting retail marijuana business applications or enact bans under Amendment 64, which voters adopted in November 2013. It legalized use and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older.

The Larimer County towns of Loveland, Windsor, Estes Park and Berthoud have banned retail marijuana shops. Fort Collins City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposed ban.

By authorizing retail operations from their inception, Larimer County stands to get a share of an excise tax on marijuana sales if voters approve it in November.

“This is not a moneymaker,” Gaiter said, because Larimer County is authorizing just the two stores, with the existing medical dispensaries getting first dibs.

Gaiter’s point was underscored by the fact that retail marijuana establishments will not be charged a separate licensing fee by the county.

For the individual commissioners, authorizing recreational marijuana sales in Larimer County was a bitter pill to swallow. Each of them publicly opposed Amendment 64. But by crafting homegrown guardrails for the retail marijuana trade, the board was content to unanimously adopt regulations.

“This represents the best that we can do,” Commissioner Tom Donnelly said.

“The job of elected officials is to carry out the wishes of the voters,” Commissioner Steve Johnson said.

The two Larimer County dispensaries that plan to offer retail marijuana can submit an application to the state starting Oct. 1. The state has 90 days to accept or deny it. Then the shops have until Feb. 1 to apply to Larimer County for a license to sell retail marijuana.

“It would be great to be selling retail by Jan. 1,” said Peter Verchik, owner of Flower Power Botanicals. “Is that going to happen? I don’t know.”

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