Thornton Approves County's First Recreational Dispensary

Thornton Approves County's First Recreational Dispensary
Kate McKee Simmons
Thornton is finally getting a recreational dispensary. On March 23, the Thornton City Council approved a license for its first retail pot store, but not without some hesitation from councilmembers.

The Marijuana Local Licensing Authority had convened a meeting with Mayor Heidi K. Williams and the council to hear testimony from each of the four dispensaries requesting a license from the city, which had previously had a moratorium on recreational marijuana. That ban was lifted last August, and the applicants all came armed with community-engagement plans to explain what each business would bring to the town.

The evening began with a PowerPoint presentation by Rocky Road Remedies, outlining a $12,000 restorative-justice program the company would like to introduce in schools. After that, Stephanie Hull, director of operations for Rocky Road, was questioned for over an hour by councilmembers.

Councilwoman Jacque Phillips asked where the dispensaries would post guards; she said she was concerned about problems in the parking lot. Hull explained that there would be security personnel inside the store but not outside, as is the custom at the four existing Rocky Road Remedies locations across the state.

Tad Bowler, owner of the chain, noted that if there is an incident, his staff is required to call the police. "I will not risk the safety of my employees," he told the council.

Councilmember Sam Nizam followed up with another question about security, asking what the dispensary plans to do about smoking in the parking lot.

"Not that these problems can't come up, but we're not experiencing any [issues like that] at our other recreational locations," Hull responded. "Most people go out, get in their car and leave."

She echoed Nizam's point that if problems arise, the dispensary's policy is to alert the authorities, then added that in this specific case, the security guard would go out first to ask the customers to leave before getting police involved.

After councilmember Val Vigil mentioned potential traffic issues, Bowler explained that it's hard to know what kind of traffic Rocky Road will generate in a new town. Its store in Aurora serves up to 400 customers a day, he said; the dispensary had moved into a nearly empty strip mall, and not only is the mall full today, but nearby businesses are reaping the benefits. "We're the anchor of that shopping mall. The neighbors love us," Bowler added. "They appreciate us being there. We bring people in."

After Rocky Road's presentation, Green Dragon made a proposal — but councilmembers were concerned that it did not contain enough information about its community-engagement plan.

The meeting ended after four hours, with Rocky Road receiving approval to open a store at 112th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. Green Dragon and the two dispensaries that were unable to speak because of time restraints will be able to state their case at an April meeting.
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.