Letter to the Editor: Meeker businessman wants to open retail marijuana store

Dear Editor:
This is an open letter to the citizens of Meeker:
Thirty-eight years ago, Cheryl and I moved from Kansas to Meeker with the dream of living in the mountains, raising two sons and making a living. We did all of that and much, much more. If you have lived in Meeker for any time, you have either done business with us or know us.

It is no secret we were very successful for quite some time and failed in 2002, when we built Valley Grocery in Rangely. What a great adventure we have had. Having said that, we would like to do one more project.
Only once in a lifetime does a brand new, never before, ground floor industry come along. That time has come for me. This industry is licensed by the state, regulated by the state, enforced by the state, however, must have local authority approval, which in this case is the Town of Meeker. I would like to open a 400-square-foot discreet retail marijuana store in Meeker.
I have no intention of getting into a debate about whether marijuana does or does not have medicinal value, whether marijuana should or should not be sold for recreational use, or whether it should or should not be a schedule 1 substance under Federal Law. This has been debated and documented since 2900 B.C.(historical timeline of marijuana) and will probably be debated for many, many more years by much more intelligent and well-versed people than myself.
The undisputed fact is that in 2012 Colorado passed Amendment 64 that legalized marijuana to be sold legally by legally licensed retail stores for recreational use. There are many restrictions on said licensees and all rules and regulations must be followed to the letter. It is a clean, discreet business. There is a demand for the product. It generates tens of millions of tax revenue dollars for state and local authorities, has proven to decrease crime, decrease illegal black market marijuana on the street and is a profitable business. The side benefit to a small rural community is that this business has become a destination for people from out of town, county and state, who, in turn, bring additional customers and dollars and tax revenues to Meeker. Meanwhile, it competes with no other locally owned merchant. As in most destination businesses, while in your town, the buyers will spend other dollars (i.e.) gas, food, lodging and incidentals as well.
In my due diligence that started in January, I have interviewed pot shop owners, customers, licensed growers, law enforcement leaders, attorneys in this field and attended seminars conducted by attorneys, doctors and investors. The rules and regulations are subject to change and seem to be in flux as they would be in any new industry. However as I stated, this is managed by the state.
There are currently pot stores in Aspen, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Silt, Palisade, Dubeque, Craig, Steamboat and Oak Creek, just to mention a few within 90 minutes of Meeker. Some offer “Meeker Discounts,” which indicates dollars that leave Meeker and Rio Blanco County and these dollars never return.
Please, please do not think that I am proposing that this small business will be a “boom” to Meeker. This small business, if approved, would merely show that Meeker is willing to accept changes and move into the 21st century. Like it or not, the pot business is here to stay. It is here to stay and will only grow as did the repeal of prohibition for the alcohol industry.
The “White River Cannabis Co.” would be totally funded, managed and operated by myself. I will accept all liability for any and all (if any) consequences that may arise. The Town of Meeker would be responsible for zoning and approval of the license.
In my interviews I have learned some very interesting facts. These are just a very few:
The average age of a customer is 52; 40 percent of customers come from out of town, county and state; there are 44 Starbucks in Denver and the surrounding area and more than 200 MJ stores in the same area; Most customers were raised in the sixties and early seventies. Remember VietNam; The black market pot is still alive and used by a younger crowd, but is starting to swing to the legal side; Meeker has always had and always will have pot, this is merely a transition from illegal to legal; There have been more than 100,000 illegal plants destroyed since pot became legal, most were grown illegally on public lands (estimated black market street value of more than $320 million).
There are many numbers as to tax revenues generated, however it has been in the tens of millions of dollars. (Pot has a 15 percent excise tax plus 10 percent state sales tax plus county and city taxes (if any). This averages 28.6 percent total. These numbers are sales tax only and do not account for associated additional income from grow facilities, infused product facilities, employment of over 10,000 new jobs, service industries, facility rentals and brick and mortar construction, local utility expenses paid, use tax on equipment and fixtures, regulated transportation for product, insurance requirement premiums, security and tech requirement expenses, testing facilities, legal expenses, tourism tax, just to list a few.
These numbers are estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars generated. In 10 months. This has become a huge new industry for Colorado. Approximately 28 states are currently considering similar legalization laws.
The application fee is $5,000 (non-refundable), license fee is $3,000 per year. This alone has generated tens of millions of dollars for the state.
Applicants for licensing will be investigated by FBI, CBI, IRS, and local authorities before license is issued. (i.e. all money invested by applicant must be clean). An applicant must be at least a two-year state resident. All retail transactions must be recorded and available for inspection. Licensees must keep 20 days of recorded transactions on file. The intent is to verify 21 years of age and state residency. No advertising is permitted (ie) no billboards, flyers, radio, T.V. or newspapers.
This month, Oregon and our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., passed similar laws as Colorado and pot became legal in those states. Nevada approved 361 new stores, cultivation facilities and test facilities this month. A Florida amendment failed and will be on the ballot again in 2016.
After at first banning stores, Aurora approved 21 new stores this year and was also voted one of the top five towns in the nation for “Best Town to Retire In.” This is probably just a coincidence, but interesting none the less.
Since the passing of Amendment 64, Colorado has set new growth records in the recreational industry (i.e) skiing, camping, hunting and tourism in general. Colorado has become more of a destination state than in the past.
In closing, I have submitted my business plan to the Town of Meeker and the trustees for approval or denial. The council does have the authority to make this decision without including it on a ballot, would be in April 2016.
In summary, I am simply a local business man who is willing to invest in Meeker at no cost to the town, county or its citizens. I live here. I have investments here and wish to continue.
I would appreciate it if you have comments, either pro or con, to address them to me personally at 878-4423 or your town trustees, via Town Hall, or come to the town board meeting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18. I am on the agenda for that meeting and will be happy to answer any questions straightforward and to the best of my ability and knowledge.
I have approached this project from a strictly business point of view and, of course, would prefer to continue down that path. As Meeker has enough controversy at the moment, I do not desire to add another. I would prefer that the Meeker trustees make an informed decision so we can all move forward.
The time frame for a project of this kind, if approved locally, taking into consideration for approval of licensing through the state, remodel of facility, installation of security and technology required by the state, and the fact that I am 70, yes, I said, 70 years of age, would be a minimum of six months. Time is of the essence. As a side note, Cheryl is much younger!
I do thank you for your consideration and participation.
Larry D. Steiner
Meeker