Fraser, Colorado approves recreational marijuana stores

Reid Tulley
The Serene Wellness shop in Fraser is still only selling medical marijuana, but that could change due to a recent decision to lift a moratorium on accepting recreational pot store applications in Fraser. It is the only marijuana storefront in Grand County.
Byron Hetzler file photo/ | Sky-Hi News

FRASER — Grand County residents could soon see the first recreational pot store open its doors in Fraser.

Fraser town trustees passed an emergency ordinance allowing for existing medical marijuana businesses to submit an application to open recreational marijuana stores.

Fraser is currently the only town in Grand County that has a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, Serene Wellness Fraser, the owner of which, Dan Volpe, indicated he would attempt to make the medical marijuana dispensary a recreational marijuana store.

“I get tired of people not listening to the voters. Let’s make the regulations reasonable and not put a stranglehold on a new industry just because it is new.”
Vesta Shapiro
Fraser Town Trustee

Serene Wellness Fraser

Volpe said he would “most-likely” make the store a recreational pot shop, though is undecided whether he would keep a portion of the shop dedicated to medical marijuana or transition the store to a strictly recreational marijuana shop.

Under state law, a store can be operated as both a medical marijuana dispensary as well as a recreational marijuana store, so long as the two operations are physically separated.

To separate the two, shop owners would need to build a wall, though Volpe’s shop already has two rooms that are separated by a wall.

Volpe said he feels a responsibility to his longtime medical marijuana customers who have helped keep him afloat since opening the store in April of last year, though he would also like to take advantage of the ability to sell his product to anyone older than 21.

Volpe already operates one recreational marijuana facility in Empire, Serene Wellness Empire, which he has indicated has seen a large increase in business since making the transition from a medical marijuana dispensary to a recreational shop.

As part of the legalization of recreational marijuana sales, the state imposed a 90-day period where only existing medical marijuana dispensaries could apply for and transition to a recreational marijuana shop.

If Volpe were to transition the store to a recreational marijuana facility, he would have to attain license from both the Town of Fraser as well as the state.

Fraser’s decision

Fraser trustees passed the emergency ordinance during their regular meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22, with 5 yes votes and one no vote. Trustee Cheri Sanders was the dissenting vote, citing concerns about the required distance pot shops need from childcare facilities as well as concerns about the unchartered territory of recreational marijuana sales.

“I’m going to probably vote no on anything we have in front of us tonight, I don’t care how it reads, I don’t feel comfortable with it,” Sanders said. “I’m interested in continuing the moratorium, and then I can vote the way that I feel when I have gotten enough information.”

The board attempted to address the required distance a recreational marijuana shop could be located from a childcare facility by increasing the required distance to 500 feet from the originally proposed 200 feet.

The board chose to pass an emergency ordinance before the town’s moratorium on applications for recreational marijuana stores expired on Thursday, Jan. 23.

The board also discussed the requirement for stores to be located at least 500 feet from each other and decided to reduce that amount to 200 feet in order to provide a level playing field for any other potential pot businesses.

Trustee Vesta Shapiro discussed concerns with over-regulating recreational marijuana stores, which could potentially leave them vulnerable to being legislated out of existence.

“I get tired of people not listening to the voters,” Shapiro said. “Lets make the regulations reasonable and not put a stranglehold on a new industry just because it is new.”

Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334