Ban on retail marijuana dispensaries lifted

As of April 1, medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Fort Collins can apply to sell retail marijuana with some restrictions.

In September 2013, Fort Collins city council placed a moratorium on retail marijuana sales in the city in order to have time to consider whether allowing marijuana sales would be good for the city.

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Marijuana!
(Photo credit: JohnathanLobel)

Last month, Larimer county approved its first retail marijuana dispensary, Choice Organics, which is just outside of Fort Collins’ city limits. It is expected to open later this week.

The city of Fort Collins voted 4-3 last month to lift their ban on retail marijuana establishments, which allows current medical marijuana dispensaries in the city to apply for a retail license as well.

“Fort Collins, and Colorado as a state, has been a leader in crafting regulations around medical, and now retail, marijuana,” said City Council Member Bob Overbeck, who voted to allow retail marijuana sales in the city. “I would expect to see retail marijuana in other states around the country.”

City council has stipulated that only current medical marijuana dispensaries in good standing with the city can apply to sell retail marijuana. There are currently 11 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, and two in the process of getting licensed. It is unknown which of the current medical dispensaries are in good enough standing with the city to be able to apply for a retail license.

City council has stated that if any of these dispensaries apply to sell retail marijuana, they must maintain their medical license at the same location as their retail establishment. They also must prohibit any citizens under 21 from entering either the retail or the medical premises.

Council has decided to allow retail marijuana establishments to sell edible marijuana products, while Larimer county does not allow edibles.

Applications for retail licenses first go through Larimer county and then the city of Fort Collins. Policy and Project Manager Ginny Sawyer says she has not yet seen requests for retail licenses come through for any of the city’s current medical establishments.

However, several have indicated interest in doing so, including The Cannabis Care Wellness Center and Organic Alternatives.

Organic Alternatives plans to begin recreational marijuana sales by July.

“This was the right choice by the city council,” said Organic Alternatives Manager Maka Kalai. “They did a great job with such a hard decision.”

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Kalai said that allowing retail marijuana sales in the city will decrease black market marijuana sales, which will make it more difficult for underage citizens to purchase marijuana.

The City Manager and the Mayor of Fort Collins both had reservations about lifting the ban, stating concern for the image of the city.

“I don’t want the availability and prevalence of marijuana to overshadow or diminish the essence of our community,” said City Manager Darin Atteberry in a memo to city council.

Council member Gerry Horak said that the image of Colorado has been associated with marijuana since amendment 64, and that allowing retail sales specifically will not make much of a difference.

“Few people distinguish between the legalization of marijuana and the legalization of retail marijuana,” Horak said.

Horak voted in support of recreational marijuana sales, saying that it is best to allow it now and make changes over time.

“I don’t know if its right or wrong, too much or too little,” Horak said. “But we can change it over time; we can tinker with it.”

Collegian Reporter Caitlin Curley can be reached at news@collegian.com.