Retail marijuana working for Fort Collins a year after legalization

Junior communication studies major and budtender, Brendon T. Greney displays several jars of marijuana while explaining strain differences to a curious customer at Organic Alternatives, located at 346 E. Mountain Ave.  (Photo credit: Zane Watson)
Junior communication studies major and budtender, Brendon T. Greney displays several jars of marijuana while explaining strain differences to a customer at Organic Alternatives, located at 346 E. Mountain Ave. (Photo credit: Zane Watson)

In March 2014, Fort Collins established regulations for retail marijuana, which has brought change to the way the city runs.

“The state has their own set of rules and the city has their own set of rules, so we’re tasked with finding a happy medium between the two,” Fort Collins Patrol Officer Jason Santostefano said.

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Finding this middle ground for the city has presented its problems for the Fort Collins Police Department. However, the city has made efforts to make the past year of legal marijuana a successful one.

“I think the real advantage is that the activity is moving over to legal, regulated places and away from the black market,” Councilmember Ross Cunniff said.

When recreational marijuana was legalized in Fort Collins, only existing medical dispensaries were permitted for retail sales, which allowed the city to manage the industry’s growth. However, other problems have arisen, such as DUIs.

Marijuana has never been in its own category for DUIs, and it has been difficult for police to effectively track data on driving under the influence of marijuana. FCPD has been working with the state of Colorado to implement changes to the way the City faces these new concerns.

“Part of the problem is, it is more difficult to detect than alcohol,” Santostefano said. “It takes a lot more time, effort and training.”

FCPD Marijuana Enforcement Officer Scott Crumbaker said that underage use of edibles, especially at the high school level, has also become a large issue to combat.

“That’s one of the problems we are facing with law enforcement,” Crumbaker said. “We’re trying to play catch up to all the changes that have taken pace with the laws.”

Since DUIs and underage usage remain concerns, police and dispensaries are working together to educate the public on regulations and safety regarding consumption.

Maka Kala’i, the director of sales and marketing at Organic Alternatives, has no complaints working with city officials and law enforcement.

“We try and go to officials,” Kala’i said. “We take it upon ourselves to maintain compliance.”

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Kala’i said that the city’s regulations on the retail marijuana industry have had a positive influence on business.

“The way shops are capped and the regulations are a good thing … we believe the regulations are absolutely not detrimental to Fort Collins,” Kala’i said. “Fort Collins is doing it the right way.”

Collegian Green Beat Reporter Zane Watson can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @zanerwatson.