Eagle delays decisions on retail/medical marijuana proposals
Rocky Mountain Pure’s proposal for a 28,000 square foot marijuana operation that would include retail sales, cultivation, an infused product kitchen, an extraction laboratory and a research and development facility generated lots of emotional testimony from community members and lots of discussion from members of the Eagle Town Board Tuesday night.
What it did not generate was a decision. After about three hours of discussion, the board opted to continue the file until June 10, giving members the opportunity to tour the applicant’s existing marijuana operations in Denver as well as another recently permitted facility in Glenwood.
Last December Rocky Mountain Pure first proposed a retail marijuana operation in Eagle — a $5 million, 92,850 square foot facility touted as “the nation’s premier retail marijuana destination.” The company has since downsized its application to 28,000 square feet with several aspects of the original plan axed altogether. The Rocky Mountain Pure facility would be located on Chambers Avenue, in an area the town has zoned for retail marijuana operations.
Not a debate
Domini Mauriello of Mauriello Planning Group introduced the land use file.
“We are not here to discuss if it is suitable for the town to allow marijuana business, because we believe that has already been decided,” said Mauriello. He pointed to several local elections held regarding the issue, saying Eagle voters had plainly made their will known by first approving medical marijuana uses and later approving retail marijuana uses.
During his presentation, Mauriello focused on the town’s land use rules and criteria for retail marijuana special use permits. He maintained the Rocky Mountain Pure application complied with all of the town’s regulations.
But while the applicant lobbied to keep discussion centered on the land use question, members of the public offer emotional testimony in opposition to retail marijuana in Eagle.
Devils against Destructive Decisions
Members of the Eagle Valley High School Devils Against Destructive Decisions club urged the board to reject the Rocky Mountain Pure application. Student Madison Baldwin noted that retail products such as marijuana edibles and chewing gum are harder to detect so they are more likely to find their way into public schools. She said marijuana is unhealthy and damaging to users.
“I have quite a few friends who have gone down the road of marijuana use and it has affected them in school and in sports,” said student Wade Ticer. “My main concern is for the youth. It is so easy for youth to access marijuana with this pot shop.”
A number of adults in the room applauded the students’ testimony and concurred with their statements.
“I am fulling cognizant of the votes that have happened,” said resident Ethan Moore. He argued that as legal access to marijuana increases, illegal use will also increase.
“If this happens (the retail approval) our community and our county will be a more dangerous place for children,” said Moore.
Patrick Beaudine, a teacher at Vail Christian High School, said that today’s marijuana is more potent than ever and the dangers associated with the drug outweigh any revenue benefits the town may see.
“If you allow this and one kid is killed in a wreck, that is on you guys,” Beaudine said.
In their testimony before the board, Rocky Mountain Pure operators Ethan Borg and Frank Quattrone pledged they would operate a well-regulated facility in Eagle.
“We intend to bring a safe product as well as a resource to the community,” said Quattrone.
Borg outlined his background and degree in evolutionary botany, saying Rocky Mountain Pure is committed to serious study of the medical uses of cannabis.
“We have always tested every part of our product from seed to sale,” said Borg.
Borg testified that 85 percent of modern pharmaceuticals are derived from plant and the serious study of cannabis has just started. As for why Rocky Mountain Pure has chosen to open a business in Eagle, Borg noted that Interstate 70 access and the limited marijuana options in the valley make the site attractive.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to bring a product like this to be compatible with the community,” he said.
But members of the town board were more ambivalent about the project’s compatibility.
“I agree that legally, this fits,” said member Brandi Resa. “But it seems to big.”
She noted that Eagle’s existing retail marijuana operation is the much more modest Sweet Leaf Pioneer operation run by two Eagle residents. Resa said bringing in Rocky Mountain Pure would be an experiment for Eagle. “I don’t know if Eagle can go though too many more years of being an experimental leader,” she said.
Eagle Mayor Yuri Kostick agreed that the Rocky Mountain Pure application was very different from the “mom and pop” operation currently in place with its proposed large cultivation facility, infused products kitchen and extraction laboratory.
Town board member Luis Benitez noted the 28,000 square foot facility would be “the first thing you see driving into Eagle.”
“If you lose any part of the proposal, would it be a deal breaker?” asked Benitez.
Quattrone noted that the application has been significantly reduced. “You need a product to use to create other products from it. Specifically, cultivation is a critical part of the business,” he said.
Benitez suggested taking a tour of Rocky Mountain Pure’s Denver operation so members could get a better idea of what a facility in Eagle would look like and how it would operation. Kostick supported that idea.
The mayor also noted that while Tuesday’s public testimony was moving, it was not pertinent to the land use deliberations.
“This is the tough position from the board’s standpoint because nearly all of the comments are not applicable under our regulations,” he said. “This is very difficult. It has been very difficult for many years. I would like to take a slow step forward and take our time with this.”
In that spirit, the board tabled a decision regarding Rocky Mountain Pure until its scheduled June 10 meeting.