Breckenridge Marijuana Shop Fights Move to Force It Off Main Street

Breckenridge has a well-founded reputation for progressive marijuana policy. The town's voters decriminalized pot in 2009, years before the passage of Amendment 64.

Nonetheless, officials passed a law banning new pot shops from opening on Main Street, and a grandfather clause for the Breckenridge Cannabis Club, which was already located there, is about to expire. But the latter's co-owner says an extension has been granted and she's hopeful the BCC will be allowed to remain for the long term.

See also: Sean McAllister on Breckenridge's decriminalization of weed, the Board of Health's medical-marijuana action

According to Caitlin McGuire, "we got our license in 2009 and opened in January 2010. We'll be hitting our five-year mark, hopefully, come this next January."

Despite the Club's longevity, McGuire says, "we've had residents who've lived in Breck their entire lives, and even up until earlier this year, they didn't know where we were. I don't know if it's that our sign is tucked off the main walking area or that you have to walk upstairs -- there's no window frontage, so you have to walk up to the attic, so to speak, to get to us. It's a fairly discreet location, with almost no impact on Main Street."

Right now, the BCC is the only pot shop on the route. But at one point, it was one of three -- and this proliferation appears to have inspired a backlash. "Last fall, the previous council decided they no longer wanted any marijuana shops on Main Street," McGuire says. "They allowed us to stay until the end of our lease, but beyond that, they asked us to leave."

Given that the original lease was slated to expire on September 1, the BCC's days seemed numbered. But since the ban was put in place, there's been some turnover on the council, McGuire notes: "There are a couple of new members, and in May or June, we asked them to consider removing the law that says we have to move. Whether that means it's just us that stays or they open up zoning to other stores is up to them, but we don't want to be forcibly removed from our location."

There's already been some progress on this front. McGuire reveals that town officials extended the get-out deadline until February 2 "while they have the conversation about what they want to do" -- and fortunately, that was okay with the BCC's landlord: "She doesn't want us to leave, so she had no issue reworking our lease to fit what the council came up with, with the hope they decide to let us stay indefinitely."

Still, uncertainty remains. In the beginning, the issue seemed bound for the November ballot, where its prospects looked excellent. (In an echo of the 2009 decriminalization vote, Amendment 64 passed in Breckenridge by what McGuire estimates at 70-30 percent.) But now, council members will be making the decision themselves, albeit with a self-imposed early November deadline to keep the time frame in the same range as the election.

As a result, "we need to work with the council a little more on this topic," McGuire says. "But we're not trying to be overly vocal" -- an approach that eschews troop-rallying demonstrations in favor of attending council meetings and putting on presentations for organizations such as the Summit County Sheriff's Office and the local Rotary Club, with which the BCC has membership.

No question that moving off Main Street could have a tremendously negative impact on the shop: McGuire says up to 90 percent of her business is generated by tourists, and if the BCC has to move somewhere beyond the central district that's only accessible by car as opposed to on foot, revenues could plummet. But she also sees negative repercussions for area retailers as a whole if there's a move.

"Almost no one comes to Breck for marijuana alone," McGuire maintains. "They can buy it in Denver or Boulder or other places that are closer or easier to get to. But if they come to Breck for skiing or mountain-biking trips, they may buy some -- and I believe anyone who comes to our store is going to patronize other businesses in town. That really helps stimulate the entire economy in Breck, not just our shop."

There's also the BCC's status as cannabis ambassadors. "We're happy to be available to answer anyone's questions," McGuire stresses. "We're here not just for people who consume marijuana, but also for people who want to know more about the industry. That's been one of the great opportunities of being on Main Street in Breck: People can just stop in and see what it's all about. Even if they don't necessarily want to buy a joint, that's fine with us. We're just happy to be here."

And they hope they'll be allowed to stay. Here's a CBS4 report on the battle.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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