Mayor, others, get first whiff of Aspen pot shops |

Mayor, others, get first whiff of Aspen pot shops

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
City Councilman Adam Frisch (left) and city Attorney Jim True talk pot at Silverpeak Apothecary on Tuesday.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Rule No. 1 when visiting a marijuana dispensary: Bring your ID.

Mayor Steve Skadron failed to do that during City Council’s first visit to three of downtown Aspen pot shops on Tuesday. His mayoral title wasn’t enough to persuade a doorman at Silverpeak to gain entrance. “Everything I do is in the public record,” Skadron told him.

No success. So he jetted off on his bike and returned, driver’s license in hand, to be admitted entrance into Silverpeak Apothecary, the dispensary council members and city officials initially entered.

Skadron had a valid excuse for the lapse, however: It was his maiden visit, as well as some other city officials’, to a marijuana dispensary.

“I’m in!” he declared upon entering Silverpeak, Aspen’s Tiffany of cannabis merchants.

He then surveyed the plush shop.

“Wow,” he said. “Wow.”

The visits came as the city is eyeing potential ways to regulate Aspen’s pot-shop industry. With seven retail marijuana establishments in business, and two more on the way, city leaders are entertaining possibilities such as capping the number of shops or restricting the number using ground-level retail space. In 2015, Aspen shops combined to generate $8.3 million in sales.

City Clerk Linda Manning set up the visits so elected officials would have a better understanding of how the stores’ operations and services work. Along with visiting Silverpeak, considered the highest end of Aspen pot shops, they took nickel tours of Native Roots, which is a Colorado chain, and Stash, which is locally owned. Each store has its own identity and personality, ranging from the look of each shop to the people who work there.

“These are the best-run businesses in town,” Manning said. “They follow all of the regulations.”

The industry is heavy regulated, with criminal background checks mandated for all employees, who also must undergo training to work in the business, among other requirements. Shops must have state and local licences, security systems and strict identification procedures.

It’s a cash-only trade as well, because cannabis use and distribution is illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

In Aspen, public use is prohibited as well.

Colorado first allowed the sale of retail marijuana in January 2014, following the passage of Amendment 64 by voters in November 2012.

“It’s the Wild West,” said Connor Doyle, who works at Native Roots Aspen, referring to the budding number of shop, manufacturers and distributors statewide.

Dispensary employees gave council members the low-down on edibles, vaporizers, flowers and just about everything else marijuana.

“I’m impressed about their knowledge,” said Skadron, who has previously said he was concerned the number of shops in town was negatively tainting Aspen’s image.

The inquisitive mayor took whiffs of big jars of buds and studied the labels on edible containers to get the lay of the land.

Councilman Adam Frisch, saying “I’m not a huge fan of the stuff,” explained he doesn’t want to see the town overrun with “40 or so shops.” He conceded that likely won’t happen, but offered that he is open to some sort of regulation.

Manning also noted that she gets calls every week from prospective pot-shop operators, so the interest level remains steady.

Councilman Bert Myrin said he would support limiting the number of ground-level dispensaries, while having no restriction on above- or below-ground shops.

When talking to city officials, store operators emphasized responsible consumption of marijuana, but admitted that some consumers don’t get the memo, as hard as the shops urge users to exercise caution and moderation.