OSince the official opening of marijuana dispensaries in Grand Junction, this could ignite a spark for the city’s economy – while also having a brutal impact on the incomes of communities in western Colorado that have profited from pot shops for years.
Next week, the Grand Junction City Council is expected to consider a proposed marijuana retail ordinance. The order will include criteria for awarding 10 recreational marijuana licenses using a merit-based approach. As the largest city on the West Rim, Grand Junction has long been seen as a potential gold mine for dispensaries.
Companies hoping to obtain one of the 10 licenses have already started scouting for locations. Sid Squirrel, an associate broker at Bray Real Estate, said there was “definitely” interest in future dispensary locations across the city.
Squirrel thinks dispensaries will have a “double” impact on commercial sales and commercial leasing in the city.
“Firstly, there will be 10 dispensaries, and those locations will either be leased or sold, which will take retail locations that have been sitting idle out of the market, so that’s a good thing that will increase the occupancy level of the retail spaces in the Valley,” Squirrel said. “The second thing is that when they determine and select licensees, there will be a bunch of slots that will be blocked by groups that have not been selected and they will go back into the market.
While dispensary zoning is yet to be decided by City Council, the Horizon Drive District plans to have a maximum of two dispensaries on North Horizon Drive near Interstate 70, according to Vara Kusal, executive director of the Horizon Drive Neighborhood Business Improvement Association.
“We’ve actually heard from several landlords who have been inundated with inquiries to sell or rent properties,” Kusal said, adding that some business owners have been called daily about their property.
“There is a lot of interest from other businesses due to our location just off I-70. They seem excited about the draw, more people are coming. Hope they patronize restaurants and more hotel business is always nice.
SIGNAGE IS A CONCERN
The only caveat to having dispensaries near the freeway, Kusal said, is that the Horizon Drive Association’s Business Improvement District doesn’t want these businesses erecting large advertising signs for themselves. .
She thinks people will be able to easily find the stores without giant neon green leaves lighting up the night sky.
“We repeatedly ask that we would like to see some limitations on signage,” Kusal said. “We’re hoping not to have the kind of big, bold signage you see in other areas. We believe these stores can be found without the need for those big, garish signs. We repeatedly ask the city council to take these limitations into account. Palisade has limits on signage, and I think that’s a really good idea. »
According to Brandon Stam, executive director of the Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority, while nothing is official, it’s likely the downtown will have at least one dispensary, but marijuana businesses won’t be allowed on Main Street, or du unless they won’t be on the ground floor of Main Street.
Among the businesses hoping to enter the Grand Junction market is The Green Joint, based in Glenwood Springs with additional stores in Parachute and Rifle.
Green’s co-owner, Dan Sullivan, has been an active participant in dispensary-themed board meetings. Sullivan welcomed the city council’s decision in January to take a merit-based approach to licensing.
Sullivan is confident The Green Joint will be part of the Grand Junction dispensaries, citing the company’s ties to the West Slope already. He said the company has for years employed Grand Junction residents who commute to Parachute or Rifle every day, so a location in Grand Junction would reward those employees as much as its customers.
“It’s the largest community on the West Rim, so the opportunity is significant,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of repeat customers driving from Grand Junction to our other locations, especially Parachute, so the convenience factor will be great for a lot of people.
“It’s a potential future crown jewel, so to speak.”
The Happy Camper Cannabis Co., based in Bailey in the mountains southwest of Denver, has a popular location in Palisade and a total of 48 dispensaries across the state, could also expand to Grand Junction.
The Palisade Dispensary is already in motion, with plans to move from River Road behind the Golden Gate gas station to exit 42 of I-70. This move will result in less congested traffic along River Road and will also provide easier access for loyal customers and drivers traveling through the Grand Valley.
Colleen Scanlon-Maynard, one of three owners of The Happy Camper, said the business isn’t ‘afraid of competition’ if it doesn’t receive a license for a location in Grand Junction, but she’s optimistic .
“We have a very successful, good and solid business. We are highly respected throughout the state. I think if they go on merit, we would definitely get in,” Scanlon-Maynard said. “I think we would be admitted, but if we don’t, it’s business. Companies cannot worry about other companies. You do your business the best you can do your business, and the customers will come.
“Those who choose not to come are fine.”
The owners of The Weedery, Palisade’s second dispensary, declined to comment for this story, but had recently attempted to move to a larger location.
Weedery owner Jesse Loughman had wanted to buy and open a location in the old Grande River Winery near I-70, but his offer was rejected by city administrators.
Administrators rejected a request that would have allowed it to move operations to a March 2021 meeting, saying a marijuana outlet there would detract from the aesthetics and character of a key entrance to the city.
Wine County Inn representatives have openly opposed the proposed move. Grande River Winery, which was first licensed in 1987, was later purchased by the owners of Wine Country Inn in a deal in June.
Administrators then approved the plan to relocate The Happy Camper to its location behind the Golden Gate convenience store and gas station near I-70 in August. Council justified its decision by saying that the easternmost location of the exit 42 area was better suited to business development since it accommodated similar uses.
Those who stay in Grand Junction instead of continuing to frequent Palisade, De Beque, or Garfield County for their weed needs could result in lower sales for those other locations and, therefore, a subsequent drop in tax revenue for those little ones. cities.
The Happy Camper and the Colorado Weedery are not only the only two dispensaries in Palisade, but they have long been the only places Valley residents can legally buy marijuana without venturing into De Beque Canyon.
For Palisade Mayor Greg Mikolai, a “definite impact” on revenue is inevitable. The uncertainty stems from the magnitude of this impact ultimately.
“Will our income be cut in half? Will it be just a percentage, like 10% or 25%? We don’t really have a good indication or a good idea of what it could be yet,” he said. “Part of that will depend on where the clinics are, to be perfectly honest. If they’re mostly on the west side of town, we might not see as much of an impact as if they were much more spread out.
“Also, it may depend on the number of people at a time. We know there will be an impact. There must be. On the other hand, our crystal ball is just not as clear as we would like.
Mikolai discussed some of Palisade’s options for mitigating the impact. For one, Palisade’s ordinances require a maximum of three dispensaries in the city.
He said there had been “problems” with opening a third dispensary, but the city is “cleaning up” its ordinances to clarify the process for opening a third marijuana store.
He also mentioned that the city was considering raising its sales tax by 2% to be more in line with the rest of the valley, but due to inflation and other concerns, he felt it would not be. not prudent for the city to approach it as a ballot. question at this time.
“There’s really no other plan in place regarding Grand Junction’s impact on our retail revenue other than to watch it closely over the next year and watch our spending and be cautious about where our money is going in the next fiscal year and maybe even in the next fiscal year,” Mikolai said. “We’re lucky to have an extremely decent reserve at this point, so I don’t think we We’ll really start to feel a huge pinch forward, maybe well into 2023.”
The only other town in Mesa County with dispensaries is De Beque. The city has four dispensaries: Elk Mountain Trading Post, Kush Gardens, Tumbleweed, and Buds Premium Cannabis.
De Beque town administrator Caré McInnis said the impending expansion of dispensaries in Grand Junction is on the town’s radar.
McInnis noted that dispensaries aren’t the only facet of the marijuana industry in town. There are two cannabis growers there: Hava Gardens and the soon-to-open Flower Collective. She believes these growers will help maintain De Beque as one of the most important sources of marijuana on the West Slope.
However, regardless of the impact of the Grand Junction dispensaries, McInnis believes the cannabis industry provides more than just money to De Beque, and that connection will continue to be strong no matter what the larger community does. town in Mesa County.
“The industry certainly brings a lot of benefits to the city outside of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “They have been beneficial in many ways. There are the jobs they bring to our community, and they are significant contributors to our community, in terms of services and contributions and so on.
“We value them more than their tax money.”