Breckenridge is known as one of the most pot-friendly cities in the pot-friendly state of Colorado. But that doesn't mean opening up a medical marijuana dispensary in town is cheap.
Licensing costs there could potentially be more than double the amount charged in Denver, which critics often complain about being too high.
Earlier this week, the Summit Daily News reported that medical marijuana clinics in Breckenridge had been blindsided by a new city licensing fee schedule that could require them to fork over at least five times what they have paid in previous years.
City officials say the money will go toward covering the added costs to the city of medical marijuana licensing has been to the city. But considering that Breck fees are thousands more than those in other nearby mountain communities, do the numbers really add up?
There are currently seven dispensaries in Breckenridge, all of which have been operating under a $1,000 license they received from the city when they opened. Since that time, the City of Breckenridge has adopted a new fee schedule that is broken down by the size of the dispensary, as is the case with the state's version.
A new center in Breck with up to 300 patients would pay initial licensing fees of $5,625; a 301-500 patient clinic would pony up $9,375; and more than 500 patients would require a hefty $13,500 to operate in the city. Each additional offsite grow for any MMC is an additional $937. Annual renewal of the licenses will be half of what the initial licensing fee was for the MMC.
Compare that with Denver, where each MMC is required to pay a $2,000 application fee. Then, after a dispensary gains approval (which none have yet to do), a two-year license through the city will cost $6,000. Currently, the entire $6,000 is due up front, but a bill before city council currently would allow MMCs to pay in two $3,000 increments.
No new shops have opened in Breckenridge, but city spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo says existing dispensaries need to re-apply for licenses, because they have now been re-titled medical marijuana centers by the state. So on top of the initial grand they paid to the city, owners are now being asked to put down thousands more to stay in business.
But things aren't set in stone yet. Since no dispensary license will come up for renewal until December, Dykstra-DiLallo says city officials could still change their mind about existing shops.
Interestingly, Breckenridge has about the same number of dispensaries as liquor stores, not counting places that sell 3.2 beer -- and the latter paid less than half in fees what the pot shops are being asked to cough up. But according to city officials, liquor stores don't take up near as much city time.
"Because medical marijuana centers are so new and so many new regulations are coming down from the state, our attorney and town staff have put way more work and research into MMCS than we have with liquor stores," Dykstra-DiLallo says.
Up the highway in Leadville, a town with a little more than half the population of Breck, one of the town's two shops had fees waived due to an old town clause exempting community health clinics in the commercial area of town. The other shop paid $500, which is comparable to liquor store licensing fees there. Leadville city officials have said there have been no problems with MMC licensing eating into other parts of the town budget.
And in Idaho Springs? The fees there are slightly higher than those in Leadville, but still thousands lower than in Breck, According to Leadville city clerk's office, a business license and tax license through the city for an MMC costs owners about $1,000 for the first time and $1,000 to keep it going each year -- more depending on if you are licensing a separate grow or infused product kitchen. By comparison, a liquor license through the city has the same $1,000 fee for a new application, but only $122.50 in annual fees.
Dykstra-DiLallo said Breckenridge policy is to constantly review fees -- and once the dust settles, MMC feels could go down. "We'll review them and adjust them for the direct and indirect costs," she says.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensaries in the high country about to get Colorado's blessing."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.