Marijuana plants are tended at BotanaCare 21+ in Northglenn. More marijuana businesses will be coming to Adams County. (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

Commerce City medical marijuana application clears hurdle

iVita Wellness appeals zoning ordinance; application moves on to licensing board

Northglenn will not be the only city in Adams County with any kind of marijuana store for long.

Commerce City’s City Council approved a conditional-use permit for its first medical marijuana facility last month.

iVita Wellness, which has two operating medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver, was approved by city government and will move to on the licensing board to secure a 1,100-square-foot property at 5500 Colorado Blvd.

“(The owner) speculates that the store could be up and running by the end of the year,” said city spokeswoman Michelle Halstead. “That depends on the licensing process, of course.”

Before the conditional-use permit was approved in Commerce City, iVita Wellness was denied for being too close to the Sandcreek Regional Greenway Trailhead, which was construed as a park.

According to the zoning ordinance, a marijuana store cannot be within 1,000 feet of any public buildings, residences, churches, schools, liquor stores, community centers, parks, fairgrounds or recreation centers. That leaves a small region on the southern tip of the city for marijuana business owners to consider.

City council changed the ordinance to exclude trails as sensitive locations after the applicant appealed the denial to the city, said Paul Workman, Commerce City city planner. iVita Wellness was then able to reapply for the same location in an industrial area on Vasquez Boulevard.

Buffer zones and strict public safety zoning requirements are among the largest impediments so far for marijuana businesses to get to the licensing stage. In Northglenn, relevancy is also a concern.

On Jan. 27, the owners of Rocky Mountain High, another multi-location medical marijuana business, were denied a licensing permit by Northglenn City Council because the proposed dispensary was deemed superfluous to the city.

“They needed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a need for another facility,” said councilman Joe Brown from Ward 2. “It was no different than the others.”

City attorney Corey Hoffman told council members the applicant has four options: appeal; ask for a rehearing; appeal to Adams County district court; or do nothing and apply again in two years when the statute runs out.

“There was adequate evidence to support the denial,” Hoffmann said. “It is extremely compelling evidence when the applicant admits that he cannot prove that the neighborhood needs another outlet.”

Northglenn has three dispensaries that have expanded to recreational sales since Jan. 1.

One of those three businesses — Physician Preferred Products at 2100 E. 112th Ave. — was approved on Jan. 27 to graduate to a recreational sales, along with BotanaCare at 11450 Cherokee St. and The Green Solution at 470 Malley Drive.

City officials say there is no instituted cap on the number of medical marijuana dispensaries that can be in Northglenn, although the buffer zones impose an automatic cap based on spacing.

Northglenn collected $232,552 in sales tax from dispensaries in 2012. In 2013, that number is estimated to hit just under $300,000. The city does not have an excise tax on recreational marijuana. The current sales tax there is 8.75 percent.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com