City and County officials could adopt retail and medical marijuana regulations by July 1./File photo by Steve Eginoire

Open for business

City, County craft rules for retail marijuana sales

by Tracy Chamberlin

It’s down to the details. A thousand feet, 500 or 250? How about $500 rather than $5,000? Maybe a screen separation, half wall or one that stretches from floor to ceiling?

Durango City Council members and La Plata County commissioners are debating those little things as they draft the rules and regulations for retail and medical marijuana sales.

The big question – will the City and County welcome retail marijuana businesses? – has been answered. And, the answer is yes.

Just how that industry will look is something council members and commissioners are working on.

Last year, both approved temporary bans on medical and retail marijuana business licenses. The primary reason was that officials wanted to see what the state’s regulations would look like before crafting them at the local level.

With the expiration date for those bans coming up this year, both municipalities took on the task of crating rules this month.

“The County’s going to allow for everything that the voters voted for … on both the medical side and the retail side,” explained Deputy County Attorney Todd Weaver.

Marijuana stores, both retail and medical, as well as testing, cultivation and product-manufacturing facilities can find homes in La Plata County.

The City, on the other hand, is only allowing for retail marijuana stores and testing facilities. They are also proposing to allow retail and medical facilities within the Central Business District.

The first draft of the ordinance prohibited it; however, at a City Council study session on Tuesday, four councilors approved the change.

City Councilor Christina Rinderle was the only one to argue for the ban, explaining via email to the city attorney, that the decision could be reversed, but it would be more difficult to say yes now and no later.

Another decision that came out of the recent study session is the distance businesses must be from schools, parks and child-care facilities.

In the county, a medical or retail establishment must be at least 1,000 feet away from drug and alcohol rehab centers, schools and licensed day-care facilities.

Just the Facts

Both the City of Durango and La Plata County are holding public hearings on proposed Retail/Medical Marijuana ordinances:
- City - Tues., May 20, 4:30 p.m., City Hall, 949 E. 2nd Ave.
- County - Tues., June 10, 10 a.m. County Courthouse Board Room, 1060 E. 2nd Ave.
More info.: or

Weed Control: Highlights from the proposed  ordinances:

- Operating hours for City and County: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
- The City plans to allow retail and medical businesses in the Central Business District
- The City and County will allow for retail stores and testing facilities, but only the County will allow for cultivation facilities and product-manufacturing facilities
- The City and County are prohibiting
retail or medical businesses within 1,000 feet of schools
- Social/smoking clubs are prohibited within city limits; however, the County will allow for them

In Durango, that 1,000-foot buffer will apply to schools only. Parks get a 250-foot cushion and child-care facilities, which are typically located within 1,000 feet from schools, get no buffer.

One thing that did not change for the City is the prohibition of social or smoking clubs.

The County, however, does allow for them. It’s not something that’s included in the proposed regulations, rather it’ll be addressed on a case-by-case basis under the Land Use Code, where compatibility is the benchmark.

One difference between the first and second versions of the proposed County ordinance is the level of fines levied against businesses who run afoul of the rules. An owner of a local dispensary pointed out it could potentially cost thousands of dollars if an employee forgets to wear his badge.  

In response to those comments, commissioners are considering a reduction to some of those fines.

County officials are looking to complete the process and adopt the rules and regulations at a June 10 meeting. With a few more hoops to jump through, they should be able to start processing applications by July 12.

Residents can start applying for a license July 1, though. According to Weaver, the first step is with the state. Once those applications are complete, they’ll get filtered down to the County.

Weaver explained that the County ordinance calls for making a decision within one year, but it can certainly take a lot less time if the applicant has everything ready to go.

It’s not just about verifying proper land use and what’s called the “good moral character” clause. Fire and health inspections are just some of the other requisites. “The burden is on the applicant,” he said.

As for the City, who could potentially adopt the ordinance at next Tuesday’s May 20 City Council meeting, the drop dead date is July 1, when the moratorium is set to expire.

If the City makes that deadline, businesses already operating with a medical marijuana license can apply for a retail license first. Others looking to apply will have to wait until after the first of the year.

Unlike the County, the City ordinance does not include language defining how long it has to render a decision, but Nelson said retail marijuana stores will be treated like any other business. State rules, however, give Colorado 45 to 90 days to act.


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