Fruita fields inquiries about setting up shop after marijuana vote

Only a day after the Fruita City Council voted to allow medical marijuana dispensaries inside city limits, phone calls already were coming in to city planners about dispensaries wanting to set up shop.

On Tuesday night, the council voted 3–2 to allow the businesses inside city limits — provided the storefronts are 1,000 feet from schools and licensed day care centers, among other stipulations.

Councilwoman Stacey Mascarenas, who with Councilman Terry Moss voted against the measure, voiced concerns during the meeting that allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in city limits would attract them to the city.

Grand Junction recently placed a yearlong moratorium on cannabis dispensaries, and Palisade has temporarily halted the businesses.

“We are going to be the only place in Mesa County to allow this,” Mascarenas warned on Tuesday.

Fruita’s moratorium is in place until Dec. 6, but the council is expected to extend that to Dec. 18. The earliest a dispensary could open would be March, said City Manager Clint Kinney.

“It will be interesting to see what happens when we’re the only one with restrictions” rather than a moratorium, he said.

According to Fruita’s regulations, dispensary owners would have to gauge need for such a store and its effect among neighboring businesses, much like what is required to open an establishment that sells liquor. Dispensaries cannot set up shop within 250 feet of one another and must maintain that distance from public parks and residential areas.

The security system and an onsite safe at the store must be inspected and approved by the Fruita Police Department. A $500 inspection and application fee is required. The ordinance is subject to change if the state’s legislators approve regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Gregg Davis, owner of Herbal Paradise dispensary in Grand Junction, which has about 350 patients, said Tuesday night his business already serves at least 30 patients from Fruita. Employees deliver medicine to some patients in town who are either elderly or housebound. Though Davis said he’s not looking to open a store in Fruita, he spoke in favor of medical marijuana, which is legal under state law.

“As a patient, I want everybody to look at us positively and not look at us like drug dealers,” he said. “I want to be here to help.”

Moss said he regrets that Kokopelli Center, the town’s largest commercial space, was included as an acceptable space to open a dispensary. A proposed facility for the elderly is slated for the area, which also is considered the tourist and commercial center.

“We could have voted to have medical marijuana legal but (the state’s voters) didn’t vote to have dispensaries in every city,” Moss said.


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