Downtown marijuana

When limited stakes gambling was approved in Colorado, the beneficiaries were to be three mountain towns whose economies were stuck on empty. But, “limited” was not what happened to their main streets. Casinos quickly dominated their economies to the exclusion of almost everything else, leaving their small-town flavor behind.

Recreational marijuana outlets will not produce that kind of runaway change to Colorado communities. For one, the investment required to open a marijuana outlet is significant in order to comply with the stringent regulatory framework.

Further, out-of-town marijuana purchasers will have a difficult time using it. Smoking marijuana will be more difficult than smoking tobacco, for sure: Only if you are 21 and not in public places. That means not in the alley behind a building where you can find cigarette smokers, nor in city parks. And, not along the banks of the Animas River; that’s public and visible.

Nor in any bars or hotel or motel rooms. Efforts to end tobacco smoking have severely limited them.

And if your driver’s license reads Arizona or New Mexico – in other words, you do not live in Colorado – the amount of marijuana you can purchase is further limited.

Durangoans, on the other hand, will be able to use it easily in their homes, out of sight. That is what the rule-makers intended.

All this leads up to the point that recreational marijuana retailers ought to be able to locate their businesses wherever other retailers are allowed. Downtown, on Main Avenue, is just fine if they want to pay the rents in exchange for the visibility.

After an initial “Ah, gee, look at that” phase, we do not believe marijuana retail stores will attract any more attention than any other type of shop in Durango’s healthy mix of businesses. The typical block – if there is a typical Durango block – will continue to offer shoppers a spa, bar, restaurant, lawyer, clothing, marijuana and Colorado souvenirs. Sign codes will continue to apply to everyone.

Even attendance at a marijuana retailer’s chamber business after-hours event will be unchanged. Some will attend for the novelty, others will say “no thanks.”

A lot of time and thought has gone into shaping first the medical-marijuana industry and now the recreational-marijuana industry and, so far, so good.

Open up Main Avenue’s commercial space to marijuana retailers. There will not be any issues.

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