Those looking to buy recreational marijuana in Aspen on Jan. 1 won’t find it. In fact, it could be weeks into the new year before the first shops begin selling recreationally.
That’s because none of the six potential recreational stores has submitted its local marijuana application, which is due by Dec. 15. Even if that deadline is met, the Local License Authority will not be able to entertain any applications until Jan. 7, during its next scheduled meeting. It will then have 90 days to approve or deny applicants.
Assistant City Attorney Debbie Quinn wouldn’t say what a realistic date is for when Aspen can expect to see recreational pot sales take place, but she said the city will do, within reason, whatever is possible to move the process along during the Christmas season.
“We’re going along in accordance with our schedule as usual, and these are businesses that need to understand what that schedule is,” Quinn said.
Ron Radtke, who owns Green Essentials in Glenwood Springs, plans to open a medical facility at 400 E. Hyman Ave. He said he feels no urgency to get his application in, even with the high-season influx of tourists.
“There’s a lot that has to be done, and I don’t want to be the guinea pig,” he said. “Lots of people are going to make mistakes. ... This is going to be a long, long horse race, and I don’t feel the need to be the first one around the first corner.”
Instead of converting from medical to recreational, Radtke said he will offer both, when the time is right.
The Local License Authority — which also distributes liquor licenses in Aspen — met on Tuesday. Quinn asked board members if she should notify the state of any noncompliance at the December deadline. Board member Terry Murray said that the shop owners need their bells rung, which her peers agreed with.
“To be a little lenient is good — because it’s new for all of us — but this is also sort of the time to set the parameters,” said board member Beth Seeman. “We don’t want to get walked all over, and we don’t want to be too hard-handed.
“If you can’t get it together when you’re first opening up — no matter what business it is — it’s a little bit of an issue.”
Ultimately, the board agreed to send a deadline notice to pot shops before considering state intervention.
Once applications are in, local law enforcement will check each shop for state-required surveillance and alarm-system equipment. In addition, every employee and investor linked to the shops will undergo background checks.
Chairman Bill Murphy said that any effort to rush the process would be an imposition on local police and city staff.
“(The applicants) can tread water,” Murphy said. “That’s just my opinion.”
Five potential recreational-marijuana retailers have acquired a business license from the city. Three are linked to existing medical marijuana shops: Aspen Silverpeak Apothecary, Leaf Aspen and Alternative Medical Solutions. Two others — Radtke’s Green Essentials Medical LLC and Durango Organics — plan to open in the future. Chad Harbin, who in September had planned to open a pot shop on Spring Street, has discontinued his venture.
Quinn said the city’s message to these businesses is to get their applications into the City Clerk’s Office.
“I think a lot of the owners of the current businesses were so focused on getting council to agree to allow (recreational) retail that they just haven’t paid attention to the fact that they need to get” their local applications in, Quinn said.