Is legal marijuana harming Colorado business?
Ryan Summerlin February 8, 2014
EAGLE COUNTY — Led Gardner is worried.
Gardner, a broker with Slifer Smith & Frampton, is concerned that legal marijuana in Colorado may prompt some people — specifically some of the valley’s high-end clients — to take their business elsewhere.
Gardner isn’t alone in that concern, but he has a first-hand story to tell. He’s been showing expensive property to a family from the eastern part of the U.S. and in an email wrote that family members are concerned about the atmosphere legal marijuana is creating in what they believe is a “family-friendly” resort.
“They told me it might not be wise to buy here because of the law,” Gardner said.
Gardner was particularly concerned when the Vail Daily put news about marijuana on the front page, a sentiment echoed by other brokers.
“It plays into fears many of our clients have,” he said. “There are a number of instances I’ve heard about from other people.”
SOME SAY FEARS OVERBLOWN
But other people in the business of catering to high-end clients believe those fears are overblown.
“I haven’t heard a word in here except my husband joking about it,” Sunny Smith said. Smith’s husband, Shelton, owns the Shelton Smith Collection, a gallery of high-end art and artifacts near the Covered Bridge on Bridge Street.
The gallery, like many shops selling expensive things, relies on building relationships with people. And, Smith said, she hasn’t heard any of those people mention the law at all.
Craig Denton hasn’t heard anything, either. Denton, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties who specializes in resort property, acknowledges that he went to college at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s, so he may have a more live-and-let-live attitude about marijuana use. But, he said, none of his clients have mentioned the law.
“Do they think it doesn’t exist elsewhere? It’s been around forever,” Denton said of people who may worry about legal marijuana.
‘HARDLY ANY DIFFERENT’
Ron Byrne, owner of a Vail-based real estate company that bears his name, has been selling expensive real estate in the valley for decades, but describes himself as “an old hippie” and “a rock ‘n’ roller from Detroit.” But, Byrne said, none of his clients have mentioned the law, either.
“It’s so controlled, it’s hardly any different than it was before,” Byrne said. “By putting it front and center … that may make it slightly safer.”
Bryne said the current publicity about the law may end up being “much ado about nothing” — that the opening of a new shop in a few years won’t raise eyebrows any more than the opening of a new liquor store.
Gardner agreed with Byrne on that point. But the here and now is a different situation.
THOSE WHO VOTED ‘NO’
While Colorado voters in 2012 decisively passed Amendment 64 — the amendment to the state constitution that legalized the use and sale of marijuana for recreational use — more than 40 percent of state voters said “no” to the measure. A significant number of locals disagreed, and many are saying the same things Gardner is now.
“I’m being asked about it by families who could just as easily got to Park City,” Gardner said. “And what do you say to your high schooler who says, ‘It’s OK (to use pot) — it’s legal,’” Gardner said. “The issue is why would we want to sensationalize it?”