Boulder Dispensaries Fear Proposed City Ordinance

Boulder is a pot-friendly city. It has the third most medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and 75% of voters there approved Amendment 64, legalizing recreational pot. That’s why some are surprised the city wants to put strict limits on pot shops and grow houses.

Greg Goldston is the owner of Options Medical Center in Boulder. He says no city in Colorado manages medical marijuana better, approving licenses promptly and thoroughly inspecting every facility.

“I think Boulder has presented itself as an example of how you want to run a program,” said Goldston, “and to fix something that is not apparently broken doesn’t make much sense to us.”

Goldston was referring to a proposed city ordinance for recreational marijuana that would restrict the size of grows, force marijuana operations to choose between medical and recreational sales, and enact new zoning restrictions. Goldston said it would make running the business more costly and could put some people out of business altogether.

His grow would violate the proposed ordinance because it has more than 1,000 plants.

“We were very surprised,” said Goldston. “The system that they have in place right now is working great.”

The current laws may work well for the businesses, but according to Boulder’s Assistant City Attorney Kathy Haddock, they have created a nuisance, especially when it comes to smell.

“We have had lots of complaints about that,” said Haddock, “and we have found that businesses that have over 1,000 plants have not been successful in installing ventilation systems that don’t impact the neighborhood.”

Haddock hasn’t released the number of complaints the city has received.

She’s not concerned that the draft ordinance could leave some businesses out of the potentially lucrative recreational market, or that the city could miss out on the resulting tax revenue. The recreational marijuana industry, she said, will be different from the medical side.

“It is very much a public safety concern, especially with the children,” she said, “and done right, it doesn’t have to be a concern, but not done right, I think there will be a lot of collateral problems.”

The marijuana industry claims as many as a third of medical shops in Boulder won’t be allowed to sell recreational pot if this draft ordinance passes.

That doesn’t bother Ben Cort with the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

“There’s going to be plenty of money to be made in Boulder selling weed,” said Cort, as he sipped his Starbucks on the Pearl Street Mall. “There’s going to be lots of folks making millions of bucks, kind of hand-over-fist doing it, and if you don’t get in on round one, like, tough.”

Cort also worries about the impact on kids, and he applauds Boulder for taking a restrictive approach to recreational pot.

Boulder resident Paul Saferito, strolling down Pearl Street Mall, thinks the city council is right to approach recreational marijuana slowly, even though he supported legalization.

“Due caution and circumspection is probably a reasonable approach at this point,” he said.

But, like many other Boulderites interviewed, Maruta Kalnins asked, what’s the big deal? She said marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and that the dispensaries have been good neighbors. Though she doesn’t smoke, she was just in one with a friend a couple of weeks ago.

“I loved it in there,” said Kalnins. “I wandered around and looked at the pretty pipes and the things. Oh, this was during the flood. It was one of the few places open, and it was lovely. There was nothing seedy about it.”

In fact, she said it was not nearly as seedy as some liquor stores.

The public is invited to comment on the draft proposal before city council votes next Tuesday.

[File Photo: CPR/BMarkus]