Medical applicants hope people see the light

After spending $4,000 in application fees, Kale Lacroux and Justin Streeb are finally starting to see a light at the end of the regulatory tunnel as they attempt to open a medical marijuana dispensary on Midland Avenue in Basalt.

Streeb and Lacroux began the application process earlier this year for a condominiumized property they have owned since 2008 in the Frying Pan Inn Building at 175 Midland Ave.

Like all those who have applied for the various types of pot licenses since Amendment 64 was passed in 2012, the partners understood from the get-go that their efforts amounted to a cognizant crapshoot.

In addition to having to shell out $2,500 just to apply for a medical marijuana license in Basalt — with no guarantee that their application would be accepted — the two have had to spend an additional $1,500 to apply to the town for a special review application.

Two weeks ago, the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-1 to approve their application to modify the town code to include medical marijuana dispensaries as a “community vitality uses.”

The town’s vitality zoning was established in 2009. It requires that new uses on the first floor of buildings located on Midland Avenue, Basalt Center Circle and a portion of Two Rivers Road be community vitality uses, which include retail, restaurant and personal services. The idea, as the zoning designation’s name indicates, is to encourage the kinds of businesses that inspire foot traffic and the spending of money in downtown Basalt.

Recreational marijuana dispensaries are considered legitimate operations in the town’s vitality zone. But medical marijuana dispensaries currently are not.

With P&Z’s stamp of approval in hand, Lacroux and Streeb tonight will go before the Basalt Town Council in hopes of getting their vitality zone application writ in municipal stone. At the same time, they hope the council will pass on first reading the license application to open their medical marijuana business.

If both measures are passed tonight, Lacroux and Streeb will then have to return to council, likely in a two weeks, to have their two applications passed on second reading.

If they are successful, then it’s on to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED).

“We can’t even apply to MED until we get approved at the local level,” Lacroux said. “People seem to think that, if marijuana is legal on the state level, you just apply to the state. Amendment 64 gives municipalities a lot of power. If you don’t get approved in your town, then you can’t even apply to the state.”

Just applying to the state for a basic medical marijuana retail license can cost between $9,000 and $22,000 — depending on the number of patients that will be served at the facility.

If the stars align, then Lacroux and Streeb would have to apply to the Basalt town government for the various requisite building permits and business licenses.

Lacroux is cautiously optimistic that his applications will be accepted.

“You never know,” he said.

But there is opposition from four tenants that share the Frying Pan Inn Building with Lacroux and Streeb.

“There are seven other units in the building,” Lacroux said. “Three of the other tenants are in favor of the application, while four are against. The main reason they are against it is their concern about odors. This is a common misperception about cannabis facilities — that they will stink.

“This is something we are really hoping to address,” he continued. “Everything will be pre-packaged or in sealed jars. There will be a minimal amount of odor. You can’t smoke on the premises.”

Lacroux feels this is but one misconception tainting the marijuana industry.

“The opposition is so pigeonholed in their thought process that they liken marijuana to someone shooting up with a needle,” he said. “This is a clean, well-regulated industry. I don’t think people really understand what the cannabis industry is about to become on a national and international level. People think in terms of pot operations as being seedy and in bad parts of town. I just wonder what’s the holdup in people’s perceptions? What are people afraid of?”

Lacroux said he and Streeb are very serious about making their proposed medical marijuana operation a positive component of Basalt’s business community.

“In addition to the increased sales tax revenue, we intend to give out $5 coupons for local fly shops and hair-dressing salons,” Lacroux said. “Hopefully, our customers will use those coupons, which means other businesses will see a direct benefit. And, if our customers don’t use those coupons, they will still serve as good advertising for other local businesses.”

When Amendment 64 was passed, Basalt determined that it would allow two retail recreational marijuana dispensaries and two medical marijuana dispensaries within the town limits.

RootsRX, which has blossomed into a statewide conglomerate, jumped on the first recreational license in Basalt shortly after Amendment 64 was enacted in 2014. RootsRX now runs a store at 165 Southside Dr.

Longtime Basalt resident Norm Clasen has been granted the town’s second retail recreational license and the first medical marijuana license. Clasen has been issued all the necessary documents from the town to open a dispensary in the Three Bears Building at 174 Midland Ave.