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Medical marijuana coming to Aspen

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – Aspen is about to have its first medical marijuana dispensary.

The manager of Aspen L.E.A.F. (Locals Emporium of Alternative Farms), who asked to be identified only as Charlie at the wishes of his family, said Wednesday that a local ownership group plans to open a dispensary in downtown Aspen next week. They are currently looking at a couple of locations to set up shop, and a lease will be signed within days.

“We’re looking at two locations in the center of town,” Charlie said. “We’ve spoken to the landlords, and they are very supportive of it.”

Several strains of the plant, which is Colorado-grown, will be offered, and will be available in edible and vaporized form for those qualified to buy cannabis. Starter plants with lighting equipment will be sold, as will kief and hashish.

Under Colorado’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters as Amendment 20 in 2000, patients with certain conditions, including HIV, muscle spasms and chronic pain, can use medical marijuana as long as they get a doctor’s approval and register with the state.

The law permits patients or their designated caregivers to grow up to six marijuana plants or possess two ounces of usable marijuana.

Although they don’t need much space for the dispensary, Charlie said he and the owners are looking for a location that offers privacy for those who want to consume on-site.

“We’re hoping that at each of our locations, we’ll have a lounge area, a private place for our patients,” he said of Aspen and possible future locations in Eagle and southern Colorado.

The Aspen pot shop will become the Roaring Fork Valley’s third dispensary.

The WIN Health Institute, an alternative health care cooperative located in Basalt, was set to open a dispensary Aug. 10, and Colorado Mountain Dispensary opened for business in Carbondale in early July.

Charlie said he and the owners believe there is enough room in the market to have three dispensaries within 30 miles of each other.

“It’s a budding market, and we want to be part of it,” he said. “It fits in with the Roaring Fork Valley.”

Charlie, who has experience operating dispensaries in the Los Angeles area, said his group plans to differentiate themselves with an educated staff who will be able to give personalized care to their patients, matching the appropriate strain to a particular person, and his or her ailment.

“We have a knowledgeable ownership group with green thumbs,” he said. “We’ll try to keep as many strains as possible available … we’re offering a little of everything.”

The product is ready to be harvested in a warehouse and will be available when the group opens their doors.

An eighth of an ounce will be priced at $60, and locals’ discounts and other pricing programs will be offered at reduced rates.

The group filed a business license application with the city of Aspen this week.

Chris Bendon, the city’s community development director, said there is no formal application, but a question related to zoning was asked by a representative of Colorado Medical Marijuana Supply, the local ownership group.

“Our zoning code does not specifically define this use or cite medical marijuana dispensary as an allowed use in any of our zone districts,” Bendon said via e-mail, adding the issue will be discussed Thursday in a staff meeting. “However, it may be similar to other allowed uses, and that’s what we need to talk through.”

The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday approved a 90-day moratorium on new pot dispensaries to buy time for its planning staff to work on regulations governing such facilities.

Neither Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis nor Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said they see any problems with a pot dispensary in Aspen.

Pryor did say security could be an issue, adding some municipalities require beefed-up protection systems to deter break-ins.

csack@aspentimes.com


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