Store owner: Don’t let Glenwood go to pot | AspenTimes.com

Store owner: Don’t let Glenwood go to pot

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

John Gardner/Post IndependentClaire Ridgley holds a petition for regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Glenwood Springs in front of her store, Unity Star Jewelry on Grand Avenue. Ridgley is gathering signatures from others who would like to see the city regulate where dispensaries can operate.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Claire Ridgley is hoping to get enough local support to get the city of Glenwood Springs to consider barring medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within the city’s downtown core.

“I’m sorry,” Ridgley said. “I just don’t want one next to my business.”

Ridgley, owner and operator of Unity Star Jewelry in the Grand Central Station mini-mall on Grand Avenue, said she and other business owners have started a petition asking the City Council to regulate where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate.

Two medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in Glenwood Springs. Peaceful Warrior Medical Marijuana opened Sept. 11 at the corner of Sixth and Pine Street, kitty-corner from the Hotel Colorado; the Alternative Healing Center was the most recent to open, located next to the King Mall on Grand Avenue.

Ridgley says these businesses don’t belong in downtown.

“I think it’s a medical issue, and it needs to be looked at,” Ridgley said, adding that, in her opinion, dispensaries should be in a professional building or office space, not in downtown retail space.

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“They don’t seem to have any care or concern with what anyone else thinks,” Ridgley said.

Her main concerns are the lack of laws regulating the newly legalized industry and the potential rise in crime and theft occurring downtown with these establishments gobbling up the vacant retail spaces.

The City Council discussed the idea of regulating dispensaries in town at its Oct. 1 meeting and decided to “wait and see” if regulations are needed.

Glenwood Mayor Bruce Christensen said the council decided to monitor the new businesses and make sure that they operate within the guidelines of any other legitimate business.

“Unless there is a behavior problem with any business, we wouldn’t have cause to say they couldn’t be in the downtown area,” Christensen said.

At least three other council members sided with Christensen, agreeing to not immediately regulate the businesses, but treat them as any other retail outlet.

“I think this comes down to the concept of public nuisance. I haven’t heard anything yet from anybody that says that they are being a nuisance,” Councilman Matthew Steckler said,

Ridgley would disagree.

She said she has witnessed people smoking in front of the establishment, which is in violation of a state law that prohibits smoking within 15 feet of a public entrance. She said that she could not determine if the smokers were using cigarettes or marijuana in front of the store, but Police Chief Terry Wilson said that either would be a violation of state law, as the laws concerning medical marijuana do not allow for use in public.

There have been other complaints about the 15-foot law in the past along the same sidewalk area of Grand Avenue involving other businesses.

“These are two poorly written pieces of legislation, which makes enforcing the laws a problem,” Wilson said.

Wilson asked the City Council to consider regulations, noting there are a lot of other municipalities across the state dealing with the issue, as well. Wilson said two more dispensaries have inquired about permits in recent weeks.

Various communities, including Winter Park, instituted a 90-day moratorium on dispensaries while they figure out how they want to regulate the new industry.

Calls to the Alternative Healing Center seeking comment were unsuccessful Monday.

Jesse Lafayette, operator of Peaceful Warrior Medical Marijuana, said he thinks some regulation would be a good idea before more shops open.

“I wouldn’t mind a moratorium,” Lafayette said. “There is a lot of responsibility here, and if we let this get too loose, this could become a bad situation.”

Ridgley would like to see some regulation before things get out of control in Glenwood Springs.

“There are not laws in place yet, and people don’t know how to deal with it,” Ridgley said. “But I would like to keep these stores in medical facilities and out of the downtown shopping area with families and kids walking around.”

About 10 people, including other downtown business owners, have signed Ridgley’s petition. Ridgley said that one other business owner also has a petition and is seeking signatures; they plan on giving the petitions to the council in the coming months.

jgardner@postindependent.com

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