Fort Collins has gone back and forth on medical marijuana since the Colorado Legislature created the laws regulating the industry three years ago. First the city said yes to dispensaries, then it said no, and most recently Fort Collins residents said yes again when Initiative 301 passed last November with 55 percent approval. The political uncertainties have made some industry professionals concerned that marijuana operations might be hesitant to move back into the city for fear of being kicked out again -- but the first shop to open in Fort Collins finally reopened today.
Owner Ken Correria has reopened Solace Meds, located at 301 Smokey Street.
So far, three dispensary applications out of fourteen submitted to Fort Collins have been approved, but Solace Meds is the only one to get all the necessary licensing. "The cap is one per every 500 patients in Larimer County, which would currently be a cap of nine," says Fort Collins Chief Deputy City Clerk Rita Harris. "However, Initiative 301 allowed previous businesses to exceed the cap. We took applications for the first ninety days from only previous businesses, and received fourteen center applications."
Before sending in those applications, the centers had to have both a storefront and a grow facility. The city began accepting applications in February and the process was only supposed to take sixty to ninety days; delays at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation extended that time frame.
"At this point, I'm just happy to be open," Correria says. Since he was optimistic that laws would change and dispensaries would again be legal in the city, he never got rid of his storefront or grow facility. "The buildings have been empty since February of last year," he explains. "Which was really hard, and I hope it pays off."
Correria does not believe that Fort Collins will ban dispensaries again. "We won by over 10,000 votes in the election," he notes. "The first time we lost, I don't think people understood what was going on and what the repercussions would be."
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Now the city has to take up the issue of recreational marijuana sales, which is something Correria says Solace Meds will move into if it becomes legal in Fort Collins.
The Fort Collins City Council has a work session on that planned for July 30. "We will be seeking direction from our Council on opting-in or opting out," says Ginny Sawyer, Fort Collins project and policy manager, in an e-mail. "Based on the short time frame to develop regulations (should we opt-in) there could be a temporary ban to allow more time to adopt local regs."
Municipalities have until October 1 to create regulations for recreational marijuana sales under Amendment 64. Due to this time crunch, several cities have decided to place a moratorium on the industry to allow more time for planning -- and even more have placed an outright ban.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Denver's projected revenues from recreational pot won't cover expenditures."