The marijuana gold rush anticipated after Dolores voters approved allowing retail shops and cultivation centers has not materialized as expected.
Just one applicant filed by the initial Feb. 5 deadline to start a retail marijuana business in town.
The town allows for two retail store locations and two retail cultivation centers, according to a new ordinance.
There will eventually be opportunity for one manufacturing facility for marijuana products in town.
Initial excitement for marijuana entrepreneurs was high, officials said, but when the smoke cleared, four expressed interest and only one followed through with an application.
“The second (retail store) slot is open until filled, first-come, first-serve,” said town attorney Jon Kelly.
Applications for the two cultivation center permits will also be accepted.
Expecting a flood of applications, the town was prepared to implement a lottery system, which included a local preference for one of the available retail store slots. But the lottery was not necessary.
The one applicant will be vetted by the town board. Its identity and proposed location for the store have not been revealed. The applicant is not a Dolores resident.
If granted preliminary approval by the town, the applicant must obtain proper state permits before opening a store.
Another potential applicant interested in a store dropped out because of a costly requirement that the facility have a fire suppression sprinkler system required under the marijuana ordinance.
The issue of requiring fire suppression for pot shops spurred a discussion, with some supporting it and others not.
Town building inspector David Doudy said the conditions of a marijuana business call for indoor fire sprinkler systems to protect firefighters and the public.
He said the extreme security measures of cash-based marijuana shops creates a hazard for firefighters if there were a fire. Metal walls and reinforced doors and windows can act as traps in a fire situation.
A sprinkler system effectively minimizes the potential for a fire getting out of control, Doudy said, and is part of the cost of the marijuana business.
It is in the ordinance because of “inherent dangers” of buildings that house marijuana businesses, he said.
Some board members agreed it was a necessary safety standard, although unfortunate that the expense cut an applicant out.
Mayor Chad Wheelus and board member Jen Stark said the requirement for sprinkler systems in a marijuana business goes too far and amounts to over-regulation.
“It feels like a double standard, and is regulating business out of town that our voters overwhelmingly approved,” Wheelus said.
Sprinkler systems are not required for businesses such as liquor stores or shops with high-end security measures, he said.
Stark said the sprinkler regulation “makes it challenging for the business to be successful.”