Marijuana shops likely will be allowed to stay open later if they choose after getting the initial OK from the Durango City Council.
Councilors have considered extending the closing time from 8 p.m. to midnight. In the end, they compromised on 10 p.m. as the latest time a marijuana shop could stay open. The decision came after weighing safety concerns against worries that customers were turning to the black market late at night.
Cortez City Council members on July 19 unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance extending the permitted hours of operation for marijuana stores. The permitted hours will be from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the ordinance applies to both medical and retail marijuana operations. The council plans a public hearing and a final vote on the ordinance on July 26.
Durango’s ordinance still must be approved on further readings before becoming effective.
Several councilors favored an earlier closing time because marijuana businesses are cash-based, and they didn’t want employees leaving the buildings late at night potentially with lots of money with them.
“I don’t think that is a safe environment we are putting our community in,” said Mayor Christina Rinderle. She initially favored an 8 p.m. closing time.
It likely doesn’t make much business sense to stay open past 10 p.m. because that is the closing time of many liquor stores, Councilor Keith Brant said.
The council also hadn’t heard much from marijuana shops on the issue aside from one store manager who favored extended hours.
Councilor Sweetie Marbury supported allowing shops to stay open until midnight to align the marijuana industry rules with liquor store regulations and to keep people from turning to the black market. But she ultimately voted for the compromise.
Limiting shop hours could help reduce the availability of marijuana to youth, said Pat Senecal, director of the Celebrating Healthy Communities Coalition. The organization works to prevent addiction, and Senecal asked councilors to consider the availability factor.
“We have to keep asking: What is the balance between business and the other values of our community,” she said.
In related action, after a public hearing, councilors also approved a licensing process for medical marijuana testing facilities.
Aurum Labs, in the Durango Tech Center, had been testing medical marijuana on a provisional basis. But a state law, effective July 1, requires businesses to have a local license before applying for a state license to continue testing.
This law also mandated medical marijuana be tested, and so for three weeks, Aurum has been turning away business, said Luke Mason, president and co-founder.
Mason and Steve Ottersberg with Green Lab Solutions Co., a new testing facility, called on the council to expedite the approval process.
Councilors agreed to hold a special meeting if necessary to get the companies licensed by late August, if possible.