COLORADO SPRINGS – Colorado Springs City Council is hoping to spread out the city’s nearly 130 medical marijuana dispensaries. By a 7-1 vote Tuesday, Council approved a 1,000-foot buffer, called a “setback,” between dispensaries. The goal is to reduce “clustering” of dispensaries, such as has occurred in areas like Old Colorado City and East Platte Avenue.
Other Colorado cities and counties with large numbers of marijuana facilities have buffers ranging from 250 feet to 1,000 feet, including Denver and Boulder. Pueblo County recently shrunk its buffer from 2,500 feet to 1,000 feet. Until Monday, Colorado Springs did not have setbacks between dispensaries, only from schools, daycares, and rehab facilities. As such, many dispensaries already exist within 1,000 feet of each other. They will be grandfathered in, but will exist under “legal nonconforming” status. They will not be able to expand in a way that violates the zoning standards. New dispensaries or those that relocate will have to adhere to the new buffer restrictions.
The setback rules were proposed in July and touted by dispensary owner Tom Scudder, a member of the Council President’s Special Marijuana Working Group. “A lot of these businesses are not doing well, there’s way too many of them in town, sales are going down,” Scudder told Council on July 23. “We went from 60 or 70 three to four years ago to 128 today, so that provides even more of a challenge for somebody who is on a certain corner,” he told News 5.
The buffer zones were opposed by Councilman Bill Murray, who argued that bars and liquor stores are not restricted in the same way. In fact, the only other industry similarly restricted in Colorado Springs is sexually-oriented businesses like strip clubs, according to the City Clerk. In casting the lone “no” vote Tuesday, Murray called on the marijuana industry and individuals to challenge the legality of the city’s new policy. “I personally would like to see the industry at-large and the people, when they realize what this actually means, take us to court so we can have this thing resolved in a more equitable fashion,” Murray said.