Medical marijuana: Business owners in Niwot say "no" to dispensaries

House Bill 1284, the legislation designed to regulate the medical marijuana industry, originally featured language allowing municipalities to ban dispensaries -- a prohibition MMJ advocates see as unconstitutional. Perhaps that's why the provision was removed from the bill late last month.

But Tim Wise, owner of Wise Buys Antiques in Niwot, sees the value in such an option. A member of the Niwot Rural Community District, he created a petition calling on Boulder County commissioners to prevent medical marijuana operations from locating nearby. And the vast majority of property owners in the two-block-long district have signed it.

Wise doesn't want this action to seem negative, and he has no objection to medical marijuana in general. But he thinks such businesses wouldn't be a good fit in Niwot. "We have a Mayberry-type feel," he says, "and we just feel this would probably be the wrong place for a marijuana dispensary to be."

Presently, there are no medical marijuana dispensaries or grow facilities in Niwot -- but a number of property owners have been approached by people interested in potentially opening a dispensary or the like in the area. These inquiries concerned Wise, who sells American furniture circa the 1900s, with a specialty in antique fireplaces. He fears that such newcomers could detract from the qualities that make Niwot so special.

"There's a slower pace of life in Niwot -- one that over the course of the years has been directed toward having pleasant little afternoon walkabouts," he says. "I've seen it described in print before as a boutique-type town, but we're not a nose-up-in-the-air boutique town. We're very homespun."

Niwot is also unincorporated -- which means "the Boulder County commissioners are who we go to when we want to set things in place," Wise explains. That's what happened in the early 1990s, when the Niwot Rural Community District was formed. "It has a historic district overlay," Wise points out, "so we have the ability to talk to the commissioners about putting some restrictions on what we feel are proper uses in the historic district."

The petition Wise created reads as follows:

We, the property owners in the Niwot Rural Community District, would like to amend the Niwot Rural Community District development plan. A new category of prohibited uses should be added to the development standards. The prohibited uses would include marijuana dispensaries and/or marijuana growing facilities. Until the amendment can be instated, we want to put a moratorium effective immediately on allowing marijuana dispensaries and/or marijuana growing facilities in Niwot.

According to Wise, 22 of 28 property owners in the district signed the petition, which has been sent to the commissioners. "They'll eventually be the decision-makers on this," Wise says. "And it's also been delivered to the Boulder County land-use department, which has input on the Niwot Rural Community District."

He's not sure when any action might be taken on the petition. "Sometimes the wheels of government move slowly," he concedes. "We know it's been looked at, but as far as it being addressed, I think they're waiting to see if something comes through the state legislature."

Indeed, HB-1284 could prevent Niwot from nixing all medical-marijuana-related businesses -- although communities will likely be able to create zoning rules that restrict where they can operate.

In the meantime, Wise says, "We're just trying to be positive. We just want to do what's best for Niwot."

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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.
Contact: Michael Roberts