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Med. marijuana retail ban rejected in Steamboat due to liberal, educated town, MMC owner says

A medical marijuana retail ban passed in Fort Collins this week -- but a number of municipalities rejected attempts at prohibition, including Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Routt County, which encompasses them. Why the difference? Here's what Ryan Fisher, co-owner of Steamboat's Rocky Mountain Remedies, told us.

"A lot of it has to do with the fact that this is a very liberal and educated community," Fisher says. "People here don't buy into the conjecture and the lies that the opposition likes to tout."

Rocky Mountain Remedies opened in August 2009, riding one of the earliest waves pushed by the dispensary boom. Did this longevity pay dividends when it came time to vote? Or did campaigning by personnel at the center -- one of three in Steamboat, joined by two more Routt County dispensaries, in Oak Creek and Milner, respectively -- turn the tide?

A Rocky Mountain Remedies crop.
A Rocky Mountain Remedies crop.

"It was a little of both," Fisher says. "We definitely did a lot of campaigning. My partner gave talks at the local Rotary meeting, the Kiwanis Club, a meeting of Routt County Democrats, and there was a candidate forum at the community center that we took part in. That kind of thing gets picked up in the local paper, so readers can see we are intelligent guys and businessmen, and we're just trying to run a legitimate business."

In addition, Rocky Mountain Remedies is affiliated with the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, which Fisher credits with helping out with the campaign as well.

Even so, staffers' longtime Steamboat residency may have been the most beneficial factor. As Fisher notes, "Myself and the other owner and our girlfriends make up the four core people in our business, and we have twenty-something employees -- and most of us have been here for over a decade. In fact, some have been here for close to thirty years. So people know us from working regular jobs and being members of the community, and we know most of them. It's a pretty small place, and we wouldn't have taken on this venture if we thought the town would be completely opposed to us. But with our experience of living here, we went for it, and I think our reputation preceded us."

Not every town in the vicinity has embraced MMJ. Take Yampah, which is about thirty minutes from Steamboat, by Fisher's estimate. "They have something like 150 people living there, and they don't have any dispensaries -- but they voted to ban them anyway," he says.

As for the Steamboat vote, "it gives me a little more reassurance" that Rocky Mountain Remedies will be around for the long haul, Fisher maintains. "I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent confident that we'll be here for twenty years" -- the federal approach to marijuana continues to concern him -- "but it certainly gives us hope."

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