This morning, Aurora will start taking applications for the last recreational dispensary that will be allowed in the city for the foreseeable future. Aurora's Marijuana Enforcement Division will review the applications and hold in-person meetings with each applicant before announcing a final decision on November 30.
Back in 2013, Aurora City Council capped the number of pot shops that would be allowed at 24, with four locations in each of the city's six wards; over the last three years, all but one slot has been claimed, this one in ward VI, in southeast Aurora.
To determine which applications will be accepted, the division came up with a point system, grading plans for building security, odor mitigation and general licensing, according to Robin Peterson, manager of Aurora's Marijuana Enforcement Division. Applicants also need to have been residents of Colorado for at least two years and have $400,000 in liquid assets.
Peterson says applicants can also gain points if they have up to five years of experience in the industry. "I want to see what they're planning to do and how [it will] affect Aurora," Peterson says. "You can pretty much tell which ones have a good handle on that."
After Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in November 2012, an ad hoc committee met for over a year to determine how dispensaries would be introduced in Aurora; three city council members sat on that committee. They concluded that Aurora has room for forty retail marijuana dispensaries but decided to start with 24, and leave any decision to expand to future city councils.
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"I think our process has been very successful," Peterson says. "It's a measured approach. We've done a lot of thinking about it, and we try to look at all the consequences."
Her division has worked hard to understand the industry itself — staffers have even been trained and certified on extraction procedures — and continues to work closely with current dispensary owners.
"We have a really good relationship with these people. That's the outcome of what we've been doing and how we set our system up," Peterson says. "It's hard to regulate what you don't understand."
For more on the application process, go to auroragov.org.