Finishing up Monday’s July 22 work session, Trinidad City Council members were presented with the first draft of an ordinance adopting House Bill 1230 allowing for cannabis hospitality rooms in the community. Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico said they had opted out of the state’s legalization previously, but could choose to opt back in at any time should they choose to do so.
City Attorney Les Downs presented some background on the subject before gathering a consensus of how council felt about it moving forward to the first ordinance reading.
“I tend to use the term ‘consumption club’ synonymously with ‘hospitality club’,” said Downs. “Not only is that more descriptive in terms of what would be going on, but it’s also how Denver and Colorado Springs captioned their ordinances.”
Downs explained the two main types of consumption clubs were broken into those that do not sell marijuana for consumption on premises and those that do. Furthermore, clubs that do sell cannabis for consumption could only buy the amount legally allowed to be consumed on the premises, no more than that. Of the clubs without sales, Downs said it broke down even further.
“There are really two kinds of consumption clubs without sales,” Downs explained. “The first one would be if you had an existing business that did not have a liquor license where people wanted to legally consume marijuana.”
These types of businesses would be like a tea or coffee shop or hotels that want to allow guests to consume on the premise. They would be required to obtain a consumption license without sales.
“The other one would be a freestanding building,” Downs added. “Like a place you’ve decided you want to have where people can come together and consume marijuana and you’re not going to sell. That is the second type of consumption club.”
Downs said he was unsure as to how people would make money from this business design, but expressed it wasn’t for him to ask as people still wanted to start these types of businesses.
With consumption clubs that also had sales, Downs explained this would be a new license type giving authority to sell small amounts of marijuana.
“This is what the state of Colorado has allowed with this,” said Downs. “Again, to consume on the premises.”
An example of one type of consumption clubs with sales would be an existing retail cannabis store where they had a separate space next door where they could supply a small amount of their product for consumption. Downs said this type of model was considered a tasting or sampling room.
The other type of consumption club with sales looked more like a freestanding marijuana consumption facility that has sales and is not associated with an existing facility.
According to Downs, the only place a marijuana consumption facility with sales exists in Colorado is in Glendale.
“Nobody else has really jumped into this whole thing,” said Downs. “This proposed draft ordinance goes into our existing marijuana code. All the requirements for a marijuana license that exist in the current code would apply to this as well.”
Downs also added that another requirement of the ordinance as required by the state would be that one of these facilities couldn’t exist within 1,000 feet of an established school.
With explanations wrapped up, Councilmember Rusty Goodall said he thought it would be best to allow just the cannabis consumption clubs where cannabis is sold in order to better control usage. He also said he would like to see if any of the current marijuana businesses in town would be interested in presenting a business plan to the city.
In response, Downs said it was ultimately a situation of if it passes, they will come.
“I am told that if you allow it that they are out there and will come forward,” said Downs. “Mister Wallace knows a number of people who are very interested. I am assured that if you do adopt an ordinance with respect to this, that people are going to be coming forward. People are even buying facilities now in anticipation of doing this.”
Councilmember Erin Ogletree brought up that several existing facilities in Colorado Springs and Denver permit violation of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act and some do not and asked if the draft ordinance considered the Act.
“It’s confusing to me too,” said Downs. “But it seems to me like the Clean Indoor Air Act always applies. There are exemptions but a filtration system is required in our conditions of use application process. We wouldn’t want there to be any odor outside of the facilities.”
Ogletree also expressed in addition to her concerns about air quality was the availability and normalization of marijuana use to young people.
Downs assured council that it was of their utmost obligations with enforcement for any facilities, be it cannabis or alcohol, to ensure that miners are not allowed to partake, purchase, or be anywhere near it.
“These places, of course run the risk of losing their licenses,” said Downs.
Concerns aside, Ogletree said she felt it held the benefits of showing other’s throughout the state that it can be done effectively.
“We have a chance to do it right,” said Ogletree. “We’re already known for marijuana and there’s no turning back on that. That is what people come here for. Why would we not make this into a place that people know that they could come and do it safely, do it legally, and do it within the restraints that we want in our community?”
Councilmember Karen Griego said the biggest complaint she had heard with more cannabis was more downtown traffic but at the same time also added that it was great to see Commercial Street revitalized with young energy.
“I’ve had no vandalism, no problems with the building, no problems with people coming in here that were high or disorderly, none of that,” said Griego. “I think marijuana is a good business. They’ve been responsible and good neighbors. Just look at what we looked at tonight on our budget.”
Griego also expressed that she was afraid people were still stereotyping people that consume marijuana, adding that even the local police department had expressed they had no problems with the industry.
“I liken this to the prohibition years,” said Griego. “We don’t have to consume it, but why are we denying somebody that wants to use it the right to? That’s their right. It’s legal in the state of Colorado. It’s a generational thing. What we used to do for recreation is not what they’re doing now and I think it would behoove us to consider it.”
In conclusion, Griego said she was supportive of continuing to finalize the draft ordinance.
Councilmember Eli DeBono asked about the legalities and liabilities that fell on the city after people left the establishments and Downs said they would be very much the same as alcohol bars.
“People are required to not be impaired to such an extent that they can’t safely operate a motor vehicle,” said Downs.
Councilmember Aaron Williamson said he wanted to be sure that consumption lounges were not allowed to have discernable odor coming from outside their premises and added that it should be retroactive to retail and medical shops as well to hold everyone to the same standard.
Councilmember Franklin Shew said he was “definitely opposed to it.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for Trinidad,” said Shew. “The marijuana sales are good. People are coming here, buying them, and usually taking them home. I don’t think we should have the responsibility of having a place like this.”
The mayor brought up several concerns he had, one of which being that the city is already over their cap of 20 cannabis businesses, now sitting around 26.
“The biggest thing is, what benefit is there to the city?” asked Rico. “I don’t really see that there is a benefit to our community at this point in time by having a consumption club of any type.”
The mayor went on to express that consumption clubs would have to have a fire suppression system that a startup business may not be prepared for.
“And that’s going to be very costly,” said Rico. “I would say that all surfaces must be non-flammable. They will all have to have ADA compliant bathrooms, his and hers. The last thing I wanted to say is I think the fee scale on this is way too low.”
To address some of Rico’s concerns, Downs said he was not advocating for the ordinance but did want to stress that consumption clubs would be a different license type than the ones that have exceeded the cap.
But Rico said the citizens of Trinidad would not understand the separation between retail marijuana facilities and cannabis consumption clubs.
“They don’t understand,” said Rico. “We, as council people, are going to have to do the explaining.”
As to fees being too low, Downs said an excessive fee structure could also be a problem.
“Communities that have a higher fee structure have greater services attached,” said Downs. “Our fee structure was rationally related to the application process that we adopted.”
With some council stressing the benefit it would bring to Trinidad would be positive and an economic benefit, Rico said he thought it may actually be a limiting factor.
“What are we trying to build as a community?” asked Rico. “Are we only trying to build a community that is open to marijuana and drugs or are we trying to establish a good, clean environment for families to be able to come in? That is a concern that I have.”
Ending what turned into a little over a three-hour meeting, Goodall, Ogletree, Griego, all said they would like to see the ordinance continue to be developed. But with DeBono, Shew, Williamson, and Rico against allowing cannabis consumption lounges, the ordinance did not get the blessing needed to continue to finalization and the eventual first reading.
With the draft ordinance tabled, Wallace echoed the majority of council stating that there would have to be more information provided to really make any further decisions.
“I don’t think this discussion is totally over yet,” said Wallace, “but if cannabis hospitality businesses are going to be permitted in Trinidad someday it’s going to be up to cannabis business owners and interested entrepreneurs to demonstrate to City Council and the citizens of Trinidad how these types of businesses will be a benefit to our community while addressing safety concerns.”