Four months after opening up the application process, the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division awarded the city's 24th and last retail store license to the Green Solution.
"The Green Solution is a professional corporate organization that is focused on security, compliance and interested in being a partner with the City of Aurora and its officials and citizens," says Robin Peterson, manager of the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division, who notified all applicants of the decision via e-mail on February 27.
The Green Solution now has the final license in Ward VI, in the southeastern corner of the city; it plans to build on undeveloped land at 19370 East Quincy Avenue. The company is a family-owned business with twelve locations around the state. Four of them are already licensed and doing business in Aurora: one ech in Wards I, II, III and V.
"We've been through the process many times at this point," says Kyle Speidell, CEO of the Green Solution, who adds that this is will be the company's second ground-up build in the city. "We know the landscape of Aurora really well. Before it was talking about numbers and what we thought we could do for the city, but now we have facts to back it up and have a great, longstanding relationship with them."
The Green Solution already has renderings and designs in place; the company plans to jump straight into the building process, which should take three to five months. Since the City of Aurora is responsive to planning and development issues, Speidell says, the Green Solution hopes to open the new location by fall.
"We've learned a lot from the flow of Aurora in terms of demographics and types of products they like," Speidell says, referencing patterns at the company's four existing Aurora locations. "We've established the specific extent of those in the store and have improved the layout based on things we've learned from residents. With a ground-up build, we can critique everything and have it the way we want it."
In May 2014, the Aurora City Council approved Ordinance 2014-14, a mandate that authorized licensure of retail marijuana establishments and created a framework for regulating them. The ordinance authorized approving space for four marijuana establishments in each of the city's six wards; all 24 store licenses were awarded through an application process and a point-based scoring system.
During the initial application period in mid-2014, only two applications were submitted for the four Ward VI licenses — one of which dropped out prior to the license being awarded. The division opened a second submission period later that year for the three remaining licenses, but only two applied, leaving the fourth spot up for grabs.
For this final round, applications were accepted from October 3 to November 30, with application reviews from December 1 to February 27. A team from the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division reviewed applications, while three third-party reviewers considered the applicant's business and operating plans.
"The Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division believes its application process is reasonable, defendable and impartial — and will provide evidence of who the experienced and best operators are," Peterson says.
Factors considered included years of experience in operating a licensed marijuana establishment in the State of Colorado; administrative penalties or revocation of licenses during the past year of operations; and compliance with state and local tax laws in the past twelve months for personal and business purposes.
Applicants had to pass extensive background checks, promise that all employees would also pass extensive background checks, ensure that no odor would be detected outside of the establishment, and provide a security plan that exceeded minimum requirements. Operators also had to prove they had sufficient funds to start and complete the opening of the storefront.
"Aurora, to me, was the pioneer to application processes," says Speidell. "They were the first merit-based application within the industry in 2014. We spent a few months on it the first time and diligently worked through their rules and regulations. This time, our application was around 500 to 600 pages long, with all of the nuances that we wanted to detail."
While this Green Solution location will be the final store to open under the city's current regulation process, only twenty of the other stores awarded licenses are currently in operation. To ensure licenses are used, the division added a new provision to the ordinance last year requiring that the three remaining establishments show significant progress in getting things up and running within a year of their January 2017 license renewals.
There is no limit on the number of cultivation, product manufacturing or testing facilities allowed in Aurora; now that the store licenses have been awarded, Peterson says the division will stay busy not only monitoring the openings and operations of the retail stores, but also managing the development and operations of other cannabis-related establishments.