Ward Van Driest purchases recreational marijuana from bud tender Courtny Stiles at Native Roots, 19 S. Sunset St., on Thursday afternoon. (Lewis Geyer, Longmont Times-Call)

Colorado gives a $567K grant to a city that banned retail pot sales

Longmont has been awarded more than half a million dollars by the state government through a grant specifically for cities that don’t allow retail marijuana sales.

The Longmont City Council in April gave Children, Youth and Families division manager Christina Pacheco Sims the go-ahead to apply for the Local Government Marijuana Impact grant program, offered through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Longmont requested $567,540 for prevention, intervention and suppression of teen marijuana use, largely through the remodel of the old fire station at 1200 Lashley St.

Longmont received the entire $567,540 the city requested — more than any of the other 15 applications from various city and county governments. In all, DOLA received $1.96 million in grant requests and funded $985,760. More than half of the funds will go to Longmont while some other cities and towns that applied did not get awarded.

When asked why Longmont received half of the grant award available, DOLA spokeswoman Denise Stepto said in an email that Longmont’s application was very competitive.

“Longmont had the largest request of all the applicants and provided a competitive application for activities and programs related to marijuana diversion,” Stepto wrote.

Pacheco Sims said staff originally thought of requesting the grant to fund staff positions that can help Frederick, Firestone and Dacono expand on teen prevention programs that Longmont is running through Longmont’s Children, Youth and Families division.

But DOLA made it clear that the grant could not fund staff positions because it would not be sustainable, so Longmont city staff went back to the drawing board.

Of the $567,540, $400,000 will go toward renovating the fire station at 1200 Lashley St.

The station was built in 1974 and vacated for a larger space in 2003. Pacheco Sims said the station would become a “multi-generational facility” with programming for senior citizens during the day and youth and family activities in the evening.

“We can bus kids in from the Tri-Town area and at this facility we can provide services like parenting intervention classes or drug and alcohol, and in this case, marijuana abuse classes,” Pacheco Sims said. “We start working with kids and give them different pathways to getting some support so they don’t become addicted at a young age, when it’s not legal for them.”

In addition to the DOLA grant, the Friends of the Longmont Senior Center are providing $50,000 for the renovation.

The DOLA grant also awarded $73,600 for two 15-passenger vans to transport teens from Longmont and the Carbon Valley to the renovated fire station. The city will provide $7,000 annually for maintenance, Pacheco Sims wrote in application materials.

Through the grant — which will be reimbursed to Longmont — the city can purchase $21,940 worth of office furniture, computers, yoga balls, art supplies and exercise machines for the new space. The city will provide $5,000 from the public building fund, Pacheco Sims wrote.

Additionally, the grant includes $72,000 for Alternatives for Youth, which operates the drug prevention program iThrive.

iThrive is a bilingual early intervention program for teens struggling with substance abuse that uses group therapy, parent education and individual psychotherapy, according to the Alternatives For Youth website.

Pacheco Sims wrote in the supplemental application materials submitted to DOLA that iThrive is moving its main office out of Longmont due to increased work with Denver Public Schools.

But because they anticipate that they will still have several Longmont referrals, iThrive will use the money to partner with the city in order to provide space for intake processing and classes in the Longmont and Carbon Valley area.

Longmont does not currently allow retail marijuana sales within the city, although there are two dispensaries operating on the edge of city limits in unincorporated Boulder County enclaves.

The City Council has engaged in discussions in 2016 about whether to lift the ban on retail sales in Longmont.

In June, the council heard from residents who wanted the ban lifted and residents who wanted it to stay in place before directing city staff to continue gathering information about the issue. The City Council is currently waiting on resident survey results before they take up the issue again.

Those survey results should be in by the end of October, Assistant City Manager Shawn Lewis said in an email.

Stepto said that the eligibility of each city or county is determined at the time they apply.

“Future changes in retail status would make them ineligible for application in future cycles,” she said, but would not mean Longmont would have to give the money back if the council at some point rescinded the retail marijuana shop ban.

Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, antonaccik@times-call.com or @ktonacci

This story was first published on TimesCall.com