Aurora city officials have had a chance to observe how other cities implemented retail sales of recreational marijuana, taking notes along the way as they toured grow and sale operations and watched Denver implement pot shops in January.
Now, with an Oct. 1 opening date for pot shops in Aurora, officials say they are ready.
“We took the processes that we saw in other jurisdictions that we felt would benefit Aurora and used them,” said Robin Peterson, manager of the city’s marijuana enforcement division. “Everyone is probably watching us now to see how we did it. We haven’t had very many bumps in the road. It’s been pretty smooth, actually.”
By Thursday’s deadline, 57 people had submitted applications to open recreational marijuana shops in Aurora, since the process was opened July 1, according to Jason Batchelor, finance director for the city.
Aurora officials will begin the process of whittling down those candidates to 24, a cap that seems to be unique in cities that have allowed marijuana sales.
Many of those who applied are current or former owners of marijuana stores, as the city requires at least two years of experience in the pot industry in Colorado.
There is no cap on the number of grow operations, manufacturing of cannabis edibles or testing facilities. Four applicants were seeking a cultivation license and one a product manufacturing facility license, Batchelor said.
The city held pre-licensing meetings with applicants and will now review and rate them based on a points system. Among other requirements, pot store owners must have $400,000 cash in hand or assets equaling that amount. They also will be scored on how much experience they have in the marijuana industry.
Three independent people outside of the marijuana industry will then review an applicant’s business and operations plan and score them. With all that information, the top four highest point earners in each of Aurora’s City Council wards will be awarded the licenses.
“They’re experts in writing these plans,” Peterson said. “They know what a good operating and business plan looks like.”
In Wards 1 and 2, there were 13 applicants in each; Ward 3 saw 15; Ward 4, eight; Ward 5, five; and in Ward 6, only three. The application process will remain open for any ward that does not get four licenses for retail marijuana shops.
City officials hope to award the licenses by the end of August.
After that, the city will begin inspecting the store sites. Owners must already have a lease or a lease contingent on them getting a retail marijuana licences in order to open a shop in Aurora.
Aurora City Councilman Bob Roth, who was chairman of a city committee addressing recreational marijuana rules and regulations, spearheaded the rating process.
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He likened it to a “request for proposal” process that will pick the best 24 applicants, instead of just issuing them via hearings or on a first-come, first-served basis.
“I really believe the way we did it with the RFP system and limiting the numbers benefited us, something that would be a differentiator between business A and business B,” Roth said. “I really believe by October 1, we are going to be sitting good.”
Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175, cillescas@ denverpost.com or twitter.com/cillescasdp