Marijuana shops continue to be tiny Parachute’s economic lifeline; town of 1,200 just approved its 7th
August 31, 2017
Parachute, a community of only about 1,200 people just off Interstate 70, has approved its seventh recreational marijuana store.
As Grand Junction to the west and Rifle to the east don't allow the sale of recreational marijuana, Parachute, which turned to pot when its natural gas tax revenue took a hit, continues to establish itself as a destination for drivers for that stretch of the I-70 corridor.
At the Board of Trustees hearing on Aug. 16, the board approved of a license for a retail marijuana store, Tokin' Tipi LLC, which will further build Parachute's "Highway Tourist District." The proposed retail marijuana store location previously housed Old Mountain Gift and Jewelry and will be on East Second Street just off the highway.
While the recreational marijuana industry may have found a home in the western Garfield County community, Town Manager Stuart McArthur said that it was Parachute's easy on/easy off rest area, which receives around 135,000 visitors annually, that really attracted those in the industry.
Though the town's repeal on its ban of marijuana establishments was met with months of controversy, including failed votes to recall town councilors and to repeal the ordinance, it helped the town's economy catch its breath after it had lost about a third of its sales tax revenue because of a slump in natural gas development.
Of the $133,529 the town made through sales tax in June, $40,790, or nearly 35 percent, represents the local sales tax from recreational marijuana, according to McArthur's monthly report for August. Add in the state recreational marijuana sales tax and that number reaches nearly 43 percent.
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"In reality [recreational marijuana] supplants what we lost with the downturn of natural gas," McArthur added.
According to the report, 20 of the top non-marijuana businesses were up an average of 71.72 percent from the same month last year with local hotels, restaurants, liquor stores and convenience stores all up compared with June 2016.
In May that percentage was up an average of 89 percent from the year before.
While the Tokin' Tipi license received push-back from business owners who will soon be in competition with the new store, the license was approved.
"I was elected because I told people that I was going to support all business in town. Parachute is open for business," Trustee Fred Andersen said at the hearing. "That's what I ran on. I love the old tipi shop, but it wasn't viable."
He added that if someone had applied to open a similar business, the board would have been happy to approve it.
"It's not up to us to choose who wins and who loses," he added. "Parachute is open for business and if you want to run a business and it's legal and aboveboard, you're welcome to as far as I'm concerned."
While the issue of setting a cap on the number of marijuana retail stores in town is something that the board initially discussed when it approved recreational marijuana in June 2015, the recent increase in license applications rekindled the discussion.
"We didn't cap it because we believe in a capitalist market," McArthur said. "The board is definitely free enterprise."
He added that the board doesn't believe that it should decide who should and shouldn't succeed in business.
That being said, in late July the town approved of an emergency ordinance setting a moratorium on applications for additional retail marijuana stores for the immediate preservation of public health, safety and welfare.
Because the moratorium does not apply to applications for marijuana-related business licenses that were filed on or before the date of the ordinance, Tokin' Tipi was approved. McArthur received three additional license applications before the ordinance was signed.