HAYDEN — Five years after Colorado legalized a commercial cannabis market, the Hayden Town Council on Thursday passed an ordinance allowing the sale of the drug and creating an application process for people wanting to open cannabis shops within city limits.
The move comes as local resident Rodney McGowen pursues plans to start what would be the town’s first marijuana dispensary at a location near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
It reverses a 2013 ban on recreational marijuana sales and growing operations within the town. While some see it as a way to boost the local economy, others worry it will promote devious behavior and endanger people’s safety.
As town manager Mathew Mendisco made clear, this does not mean a dispensary will pop up on every street corner.
The ordinance creates strict limitations on where such shops can open, such as a 1,000-foot buffer zone around daycares, schools, parks, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, libraries and recreational facilities.
It also says that a dispensary must be within 150 feet of a “major transportation facility,” defined as a facility funded and regulated by the federal government.
“That basically limits Highway 40 and the airport where a facility like this could be located,” Mendisco said.
While the council voted unanimously at its last meeting to approve the first reading of the ordinance, members were more hesitant this time.
The vote passed 4-2, with council members Tammi Engle and Richard Hagins opposed.
Hagins was concerned the ordinance may encourage visitors flying into the area to buy marijuana as soon as they land, then drive intoxicated.
While Mendisco acknowledged that as a possibility, he said he does not believe the dispensary’s proximity to the airport would put people at any greater risk than, for instance, the town’s liquor store directly off U.S. Highway 40.
“I think that there