(Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Aurora rec plan includes points system for shop licenses

The city of Aurora is considering implementing a points system in deciding who will get the coveted 24 recreational marijuana licenses when pot shops can finally open in the city on Oct. 1.

This is in contrast to cities such as Denver that use a hearing process to award licenses.

Under a proposal discussed Monday night, potential licensees could earn one point by having three years in the marijuana industry. Additional points could be earned for each year of experience, up to five years (three points total).

Points would accumulate in six possible categories and the top 24 scores would get licenses.

The number of potential retail stores rose from 20 to 24 after a special study session Monday in which council members agreed that the city’s six wards should each have four stores. Under this proposed regulation, there would be no buffer zones required between retail stores. Previously, council considered a minimum of 5,000 feet between stores.

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Council also agreed that marijuana stores in Aurora should operate between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. to compete with Denver, where pot shops lock up at 7 p.m.

“I would like to extend it (later), because if Denver closes earlier then maybe we can pick up some of that business,” said councilwoman Barb Cleland, who is also on the city’s Amendment 64 ad hoc committee.

The full council will consider the regulations at an upcoming City Council meeting.

The “request for proposal” plan is the idea of Aurora City Councilman Bob Roth, who is chairman of the Amendment 64 committee, which has produced potential regulations for recreational marijuana.

“My feeling is that we have an opportunity to select the best possible business owners and an RFP is the best way to do that,” Roth said. “What it will end up looking like we don’t know yet.”

Aurora is in the home stretch of setting its marijuana regulations. It is left with only two major decisions: the selection process for applicants, and how much of a pot tax if any to impose.

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Because the city didn’t already have medical marijuana stores, October is the earliest the outlets could open.

City Councilwoman Molly Markert, also on the city’s Amendment 64 committee, said she would like to see a category to earn points for residents of Aurora, which isn’t in the proposal. She also laments the fact that the point system is basically set up for owners who have the most money.

She noted that the process has dragged on and said the city must draft final regulations soon.

“A better idea would be more than welcome,” Markert said of the RFP. “At some point or another we have to figure out who are we going to do business with.”

As for the points system, applicants could also earn two points if they have never been convicted of a felony, another two points if they have no pending drug charges and yet another two if they have no drug-related misdemeanor convictions.

Mike Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, said he doesn’t know of any other communities in Colorado that have gone to a points system.

Cleland said it’s been a difficult process deciding who should get the initial licenses.

“We’ve got to figure out some way to narrow down the applicants,” she said.

Megan Mitchell: 303-954-2605, mmitchell@denverpost.com or twitter.com/mmitchelldp

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This story was first published on DenverPost.com