With room running out in the city of Durango, more marijuana dispensaries are moving into the unincorporated areas of La Plata County.
The move, according to those in the marijuana industry, allows businesses to expand while at the same time catching other potential customers as they travel to and from the city.
Recently, Durango Organics opened the first dispensary to be located in La Plata County. Grandview/Three Springs area, east of Durango. And, three more dispensaries are trying to open: another in Grandview, one north of town near Purgatory Resort and another just north of the New Mexico state line.
“It seemed like a great spot on the highway for our customers headed east,” said Durango Organics co-owner Johnny Radding. “And, we’re definitely seeing more businesses and more people in the Grandview, Three Springs (area) which has really grown and continues to grow.”
Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012. At its height, the city of Durango had about 20 marijuana licenses for recreational and medical retail stores, as well as marijuana testing facilities.
The city of Durango does not allow marijuana growing facilities in city limits.
But as the market settled, there has been a decrease in dispensaries in the city. As of 2018, the city had 10 retail marijuana stores and two medical marijuana stores. And, applications for new stores has been leveling off, said Ben Florine, deputy clerk for the city of Durango.
Heather Bailey, a planner with the city of Durango, said the stagnation of new dispensaries in town is likely because it is harder to find new locations where it is legal to open a new store.
Jason Meininger, planning director for La Plata County, agrees.
In the early part of 2018, Meininger said there was an uptick in interest in starting new marijuana cultivation facilities in the county, mostly from Front Range businesses wanting to expand their operations.
As of 2018 data, La Plata County has about 10 licensed marijuana growing facilities, with a handful of others in the permitting process.
But the local regulations are different than many communities on the Front Range.
“Folks are coming to La Plata County because we don’t have caps or moratoriums on our licenses,” said Jennifer Boyer, licensing coordinator for La Plata County.
Still, it is not easy to start a growing operation in La Plata County, Meininger said, because there are issues that stem from lack of infrastructure, namely water availability and road access. As a result, many applications fall through.
“And, having spoken to some growers in town, they believe the market is saturated right now,” Meininger said. “So it’s just gone flat.”
While growing facilities in the county started operating as early as 2013, Durango Organic’s Grandview location that opened this year is the first licensed retail store to open in La Plata County.
Attempts to reach Kinfolk Farms, which has a cultivation facility in Grandview and will soon open a retail dispensary at the site, were unsuccessful.
Radding said getting his store up and running in the county wasn’t easy; it took two years to obtain a Class II land-use permit. But, he said, as opposed to the city, businesses can have growing, retail and product facilities all in the same place.
“I think a lot of people with grow facilities need outlets,” Radding said. “And we found a great location in terms of visibility and it being a highly trafficked spot.”
This article has been updated to clarify that Kinfolk Farms has not yet opened a retail marijuana store in Grandview.