High Q secures lease for pot shop in Snowmass Mall, next up is license and review process | AspenTimes.com

High Q secures lease for pot shop in Snowmass Mall, next up is license and review process

This second-floor location on the Snowmass Mall likely will be the site for Snowmass Village's first marijuana store. A lease has been secured and now the owners of High Q are working on their state approval, then will go to the Snowmass marijuana authority.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times

The woman who owns two recreational marijuana stores in the region hopes to add Snowmass Village to her stable after agreeing to a lease for a pot shop on the Snowmass Mall.

Renee Grossman operates High Q Dispensaries in Carbondale and Silt, and recently she was selected out of 11 requests to the Romero Group, which operates much of the Snowmass Mall, for a lease to open the town’s first pot shop.

Grossman said Friday the lease is just the first steps, and she has learned from opening stores in Silt (2014) and then Carbondale (2018), things can take time, and especially since this is a first for Snowmass.

“If everything went according to the way I’d like it to go, I would love to be open by December. But a lot of things have to fall into place,” said Grossman, who moved to the valley 10 years ago and has lived in Old Snowmass for the past three years. “We really won’t know until we start meeting with the town and they conduct public hearings how long the actual process is going to take.”

Grossman was a vocal opponent to the town’s licensing schedule, which requires the prospective applicants to first get their state license secured for the store before starting the town’s process. In all, that could take as long as six months.

She said she turned in her paperwork to the state in the past week and hopes to have that approval by the end of August. She then will submit her application to the town.

“When I opened in Silt, I started construction and I had to go through a special-use permit process. I was relatively new to working with municipal codes,” Grossman said. “We had a tied board on our first pass through Silt, and then the final trustee was at the next meeting and voted and so we passed.

“That was a bit of a lesson for me because we were already $40,000 into renovations. In Carbondale, we waited until we had the Carbondale license before we started renovations.”

She and her two minority investors for the Snowmass store are looking now at how much construction they might want to start as their applications are being reviews. The shop will be located on the second level of the Snowmass Mall where the old Hideaway restaurant was located (near the bus terminal).

“I honestly don’t know (how long the village review will take). I think they are going to be conservative since they have not been through this process before,” she said. “I do anticipate they will take their time. The ordinance allows them a lot of latitude on how long they can take.”

Assistant city manager Travis Elliott said Friday he thinks the town’s process will take one to three months. First comes a hearing with the Local Marijuana Licensing Authority and then a review of the application before the vote.

“It will mostly depend on the completeness of the application when we receive it, and how many hearings are required to review the application,” Elliott said Friday. “My ballpark estimate is 30 to 90 days.”

At the marijuana authority meeting in May when the language was being finalized for all of the town’s applications, Grossman challenged the consecutive timeline versus being able to apply to both the state and the town at the same time, which would help speed up the opening.

At that meeting, town manager Clint Kinney said they are proceeding with “an abundance of caution” because of the newness of the process.

“I have a good track record. We have had no fines, no issues with the state or problems with our neighbors,” Grossman said Friday. “I think some of the concerns people might have will dissipate once they see who we are.”

Dwayne Romero, who owns the Romero Group that runs the mall space, said Grossman will be “a good addition to the mall” and they are “thrilled to have her.”

Grossman grew up in Philadelphia and spent 15 years in investment banking in New York City before coming to Colorado in the summer of 2009 and later getting involved in the cannabis industry.

High Q does not have its own grow house. It tried in January 2015 but the Silt town trustees unanimously refused the application after a large group of residents protested. Grossman said High Q purchases its products from suppliers who grow without chemicals and pesticides. She said they only buy organically grown cannabis.

Snowmass Village had a moratorium on marijuana sales since it became legal in Colorado in 2014. In the November 2012 election, Snowmass Village voted 989-385 in favor of the state’s Amendment 64, according to election results from Pitkin County.

In March, the town council voted 3-2 to allow marijuana shops. Since that time, the licensing authority has approved all the language for the application process.

The town has estimated that it will see marijuana sales from $1.9 million to as much as nearly $6 million, based on what other Colorado communities have reported. In November, Snowmass votes approved a 5% sales tax (which would go along with the state’s 15% excise tax and 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana). Snowmass’s tax would bring in between $95,000 and $300,000 each year to the town.

The other key, say Grossman and Romero, is that having a pot shop in Snowmass will keep visitors and locals in town.

“We know a significant number of people leave Snowmass Village to go to Aspen to buy marijuana. You can presume they think, ‘Well, we’re going in, we should stay in there for dinner,’” Grossman said. “The thinking is this will help Snowmass Village.

“They’ve been making a huge push to increase activities and events and tourism in Snowmass Village to keep people in Snowmass Village, so I think this is along those lines.”