Uncompahgre Valley Marijuana Could Be a Growing Enterprise
by Samantha Wright
Feb 28, 2013 | 2455 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY COUNTY – Grand Mesa Growers is poised to expand its medical marijuana grow facility south of Ridgway to accommodate what it predicts will be a huge surge in recreational demand for its product next year with the full implementation of Amendment 64.

Owner Chris Sanchez and his team appeared before the Ouray Board of County Commissioners at a work session on Tuesday, Feb. 26, to spell out the company’s expansion plans and to seek a general sense of whether the county will allow them to go forward.

Grand Mesa Growers owns and operates three medical marijuana dispensaries – the Acme Healing Centers of Crested Butte, Ridgway and Durango. All of the product sold at these three centers comes from the company’s current grow facility in the Uncompahgre Valley south of Ridgway.

Pending the implementation of new state regulations in early 2014, the company would like to convert these dispensaries to recreational pot shops, but can’t do so unless it gets permission from the county to convert its grow operation, as well.

This operation currently consists of a 6,000 square-foot warehouse where 40 varieties of pot are grown indoors year-round, as well as a 4,200 square-foot sun screen filter room (i.e., greenhouse) used on a seasonal basis.

Pending county approval, Sanchez said he would like to add a new 58,200 square-foot system of attached greenhouses for recreational growing, and convert the current warehouse into a storage and packaging facility. Growing the plants in greenhouses rather than indoors would greatly reduce the operation’s energy demands.

“It’s a big goal for us to cut our carbon footprint down and become a green company,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez reported that GMG/Acme Healing Centers has recently relocated its corporate headquarters to Ridgway. Altogether, the company now has 12 employees, and plans to add three more by year’s end.

So far, business at the Ridgway dispensary is booming, he said. “It’s exciting; in our first four weeks, we doubled what we did in our other stores.”

That means that annual sales tax revenues here could potentially outpace those at the Crested Butte and Durango locations, which currently bring in about $7,000 and $20,000, respectively. Those numbers could easily multiply by four to five times with the pending conversion from medical to recreational sales.

An economic impact statement shows that with projected growth, the company could bring approximately 30 new jobs to Ouray County, with $1.4 million in direct economic impact through a combination of salaries, property taxes, and state and local sales taxes.

Shawn Mascowitz, a city councilor from Crested Butte, praised Acme’s “tactfulness in advertising” and its proven ability to deliver a new stream of sales tax revenues to the town coffers.

GMG attorney Christian Sederberg traveled from Denver to attend the BOCC work session as well. Sederberg, one of the primary authors of Amendment 64, is currently a member of the governor-appointed Amendment 64 Task Force which is hashing out proposed regulations for the Colorado legislature to consider this spring.

“For the last two months we have been working ’round the clock to address issues that deal with implementation at the local level,” Sederberg said. He emphasized that the commission seeks to give wide latitude to local governments, which are empowered to prohibit marijuana businesses within their jurisdiction.

The commission’s work is set to be unveiled on Thursday this week. One of the regulations being discussed would allow counties to assess operating fees on recreational marijuana enterprises to mitigate associated law enforcement and permitting costs.

“We really love being here and we hope we can stay,” Sanchez told the BOCC. “We do need to know the direction you [as a county] are going.” Commissioners listened politely to the presentation and asked a few questions, but did not tip their hand as to whether they would permit the proposed expansion.



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