Fruita rejects pot shop
A bid to open the first medical marijuana center in Fruita was rejected Tuesday night after Police Chief Mark Angelo accused the would-be owner of not being forthcoming about her operation and its financial backers.
The City Council voted 4-2 against issuing a conditional-use permit to Grand Junction resident Heather Sheley, who was seeking to open Next Gen at 1960 U.S. Highway 6&50.
“Medical marijuana is a complicated, evolving issue and we shouldn’t settle for anything less than complete disclosure,” Councilwoman Lori Buck said. “In my mind this has to be a completely transparent process and it hasn’t been.”
Councilwoman Stacey Mascarenas, who made the motion to reject the permit, said the business would not meet the needs and desires of the neighborhood, which is one of the requirements of an ordinance regulating the medical marijuana industry passed by the City Council last November. Council members Bruce Bonar and Mel Mulder disagreed with Mascarenas, prompting them to cast dissenting votes.
Most council members’ concerns, however, focused on what they believed was a lack of personal and business information provided by Sheley.
Angelo told council members that Sheley, an employee of the business and Sheley’s mother, who provided $9,000 to help fund the business, consented to background checks. State law requires medical marijuana center owners and employees to undergo background checks.
In addition to the money from her mother, Angelo said Sheley told her she planned to use her and her husband Bruce’s $7,500 joint tax refund to help subsidize the business. Bruce Sheley, though, refused to submit to a background check.
Angelo also indicated that he had information that Sheley, her employee or both were illegally growing marijuana and that Sheley failed to answer him when he asked her about it.
“It’s been difficult getting information in a timely fashion, to get complete information in a timely fashion,” Angelo said.
Sheley, however, contended her husband wasn’t obligated to undergo a background check because he’s not an owner or employee of the business. And she said she felt threatened by Angelo, claiming that in a phone call last month Angelo accused her of lying to him and told her she had one chance to come clean with him or “the Grand Junction Police Department will come to my door.”
Sheley said Next Gen hasn’t begun to grow any medical marijuana and that she hasn’t violated any laws.
“I have no qualms with complying with lawful, reasonable requests,” she said.
Roughly 30 people sat in on the nearly three-hour hearing, and all who spoke outside of Sheley and her attorney, Aaron Norris, were opposed to the opening of the medical marijuana center.
Greg Smith, owner of Twin Crossings Unique Furniture, 1956 U.S. 6&50, argued Next Gen could harm his business.
“I have put thousands of dollars into my property. I don’t need to have it brought down by another business,” he said.
Several residents said the advent of the medical marijuana industry has further exposed young people to the drug. One woman argued children are being led to believe “marijuana is like vitamins.”
The Fruita City Council’s decision came one night after the Grand Junction City Council voted to ban medical marijuana centers within city limits by Jan. 1. Should Mesa County voters decide in November to follow suit and prohibit such businesses from operating within unincorporated areas of the county, it’s conceivable that the only medical marijuana center operating in the Grand Valley for the foreseeable future would be located in Palisade.