More than two years after the first recreational marijuana storefront opened in Aurora, the opportunity to apply for the city’s 24th — and final — pot shop license is ending.
Retail marijuana businesses have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file applications for a chance to open a shop in the southeast part of Aurora. The city will rank applicants and select a winner using a points system. Credit is awarded for past marijuana business experience and a clean criminal record, for example.
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The city said it will make a decision on a winning application by Feb. 1. City spokeswoman Julie Patterson said so far only one business has submitted an application to occupy that final storefront, although she expected at least one more to get an application in by the end of Wednesday.
“The goal was to have a limit on the number of stores, and we wanted them to be dispersed throughout the city,” Patterson said of Aurora’s retail marijuana rules.
Aurora Councilwoman Barbara Cleland was one of several city leaders who in 2014 devised what was then a unique approach in Colorado to regulating the nascent cannabis industry, putting in place a citywide cap of 24 stores and the requirement that no more than four of those storefronts could locate within any of the city’s six wards.
“We took our time in setting the process,” Cleland said Tuesday. “We thought it would be a much more deliberative process. I feel that’s paid off.”
Aurora has collected approximately $8 million in marijuana tax revenue since the first shop in the city opened in October 2014. Recreational marijuana sales in Colorado began on Jan. 1, 2014.
“What we have done differently is we have set aside the marijuana money — it doesn’t go into the general fund,” Cleland said.
Some of the programs that cannabis earnings have helped fund in Aurora are $2 million in debt service payments for the construction of a $30 million recreation center; $1.5 million for outreach efforts to the homeless community; and $3.8 million in transportation projects, including a turn lane from Alameda Avenue to Interstate 225.
Aurora projects it will collect $6.7 million in 2018, when it expects all 24 stores to finally be up and running. Currently, there are 19 pot shops operating in the city. Medical marijuana sales are not permitted in Aurora.
Not all has gone smoothly with Aurora’s recreational pot sector. In June, a security guard was shot and killed at Green Heart Dispensary at 19005 E. Quincy Ave. Diana Cooley, a spokeswoman for the Aurora Police Department, said there has been “an increase in crime due to numerous burglaries at these locations.”
“In addition, the stores have required significant attention from APD due to quarterly inspections and background investigations that are conducted by APD personnel,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Denver Post.
Euflora was the first pot shop to open in Aurora and has since opened a second location in the city. Manager Colin Patrick on Tuesday said “business has been great” over the past two years.
“We’re the closest shop for people in Castle Rock and Elizabeth,” he said. “We get all the people from Douglas County.”
Recreational marijuana sales are illegal in every municipality in Douglas County and in the unincorporated parts of the county as well.
Patrick said his Euflora location on Gun Club Road is the only pot shop within a 4-mile radius. He attributes that to the forward-thinking system city leaders came up with limiting the density of shops.
“It’s nice,” he said, “to see them spread out — so they are not in such direct competition with each other.”