DILLON — A cannabis consumption lounge may soon be making its way to Dillon.
Dillon Town Council members largely voiced support for the proposal during a virtual work session discussion Tuesday afternoon, ultimately deciding that providing a safe space to consume and educate community members about marijuana could be a valuable service.
Last year, the state passed a bill allowing for the consumption of cannabis products at licensed and regulated facilities. Sites can begin popping up as early as January, but local municipalities have to opt-in to allow them to open.
Governments around Summit County already have begun weighing the idea. Silverthorne has chosen not to allow the facilities, and Breckenridge addressed the issue in November but hasn’t returned to the discussion. Many officials in Dillon said they don’t have any problem with being the first town to make the move.
“Education is really important,” council member Jen Barchers said. “We can look at this positively and say, ‘We’re the first ones in Summit County to start educating people’ and to say, ‘Here’s how you properly have an edible. Here’s how you feel when you’re on an edible.’ … Its going to be a service to our visitors.”
Not everyone on the council agreed. Council members Karen Kaminski and Renee Imamura took the strongest stances against the concept, bringing up worries about safety and the town’s image.
Safety has been one of the chief concerns from the beginning, most notably in creating a space that would be safe for any first responders that might need to go inside and not exacerbating existing DUI issues in the area.
Both concerns were addressed in the workshop, and council formed a consensus to require consumption lounges to install a top-quality ventilation system that would prevent nonsmokers from being affected and ensure that guests leave the facility in some sort of shuttle service.
Some council members continued to say that marijuana dispensaries are already more highly regulated than bars in the state and would be subjected to potentially severe punishments like losing their license for violations.
While some voiced ongoing worries about monitoring the shops, the conversation also turned toward more of a cultural debate.
“I feel that we need to really ask ourselves if we want to be known as the town that has a consumption lounge,” Imamura said. “… When I look at what our values are, I don’t think they’re in line with how we want to promote Dillon.”
“I think that has to expand to the types of concerts we bring in, the type of people we attract to those concerts and the overall picture of it,” added Kaminski. “It’s frustrating to say we’re not going to have a consumption lounge, but then we’ll bring in music that brings in all the pot-smokers and brings in that population to our community, where I personally don’t want to be in town when they’re here. …
“It’s not stereotyping or saying all people who smoke pot are bad people; it’s a culture and environment we create that people are either comfortable in or not.”
Mayor Carolyn Skowyra rebutted, saying that Summit County voters heavily supported legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012, that many community members already consume marijuana and that on-site education is the best option for many visitors.
“We’re not inviting some population that isn’t already here,” Skowyra said. “To touch on the concert point, I’m absolutely not in favor of having a visioning meeting where we say we don’t want bands that are going to bring people to town that smoke pot. Because I really think it’s not fair to put people in a box like that. … I think we can find an answer for this — for Dillon to be the first one and for it to be a good thing for Dillon.”
Others argued marijuana is already prevalent in the community and that the council should respect the industry’s growth locally.
“It’s already part of our community,” council member Steven Milroy said. “… I kind of feel better with smoking being indoors in a confined space that is filtered and is away from the recpath, the marina and all the other places you smell it from time to time. … I tend to be more progressive because people are doing it already, and I don’t want to discriminate against people’s choices.”
In total, five of the seven council members agreed to pursue the idea assuming certain safety regulations could be put into place. Town Manager Nathan Johnson said there were currently no applicants but that Altitude Organics has shown strong interest.
If the town does decide to allow consumption lounges, the council would need to officially amend the town code via a new ordinance.