Archuleta County now has two licensed medical marijuana businesses, following Monday’s meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.
But, the vote to grant the new business a county license was not made without discussion concerning the business’ name.
The new business, run by J and J Enterprises, Inc., will be named Pagosa Organic Therapeutics, the acronym for which is POT.
While the president of the business claimed the acronym was innocent, the commissioners questioned the intent behind it.
Archuleta County’s ordinance regulating medical marijuana operations, in section 8(e), states that, “In addition, no exterior signage shall use the word ‘marijuana,’ cannabis’ or any other word, phrase or symbol commonly understood to refer to marijuana.”
Commissioner Steve Wadley began the questioning by stating the applicable portion of the ordinance before asking J and J Enterprises President Jason Werby to state the acronym.
Werby admitted the acronym is, “POT,” but stated that the ordinance doesn’t say anything about acronyms, prompting County Attorney Todd Starr to read the portion of the ordinance Wadley had previously referred to.
Werby indicated that, by waiting so long to be able to put in an application, many of the good names in the state are gone, but that Pagosa Organic Therapeutics was a proper name for the business, showing that he and his business partner, Jeremy Bonin, were “proud” to live in Pagosa, that “organics” was an ode to the environmentally friendly goals of the business, and that “therapeutics” means to serve and help.
Werby continued that he was not trying to make reference to the acronym with the name.
Wadley asked if all the marijuana the shop plans to offer is organically grown, with Werby answering that several organic products would be offered at the business, but that marijuana cannot be certified organic — that “organic” was a popular word in the industry, used to indicate the business is environmentally friendly.
Wadley then asked what names Werby wanted that were previously taken. Werby said several names promoting healing were taken, such as Rocky Mountain Healing, and that Pagosa Organics was too much like Durango Organics to differentiate ownership of the businesses.
Wadley asked if Pagosa Therapeutics was taken, with Werby reporting that it came up in a web search.
A web search conducted by SUN staff for the name “Pagosa therapeutics” yielded no results.
Commissioner Michael Whiting suggested that the business place no emphasis on its acronym in its logo.
“I have a major problem with this,” commissioner Clifford Lucero said, stating that he felt Werby and Bonin were, “trying to slip something by us.”
Lucero then asked Starr if the acronym fit within the ordinance, to which Starr answered that the BoCC had the discretion to conditionally approve the license and to say that the acronym could not be used.
Lucero noted that he understands the benefits of medical marijuana and that he, “pushed hard” for the county’s first medical marijuana dispensary. (Lucero has long been the voice of dissent on medical marijuana issues among the commissioners, but voted in favor of banning operations from residential areas, which forced Good Earth Meds, the first dispensary, to relocate to Cloman Industrial Park.)
“I’ve come full circle,” Lucero said of medical marijuana, later stating he did not want to see a monopoly on the industry in Archuleta County, but wanted to make sure things were done correctly.
But, Lucero continued to express frustration to Werby.
“It’s disturbing to me,” Lucero said. “You had time to come up with a better name.”
Werby agreed to not use the acronym in referring to the business, but said he wanted the name to reflect the creativity of the business.
Party politics, too, entered the discussion, with both Lucero and Wadley stating the position of their parties on the topic of medical marijuana.
“I stuck my neck out a mile for this,” Wadley said, noting the Republican Party doesn’t agree with the county’s stance on medical marijuana, but that the voters do. Wadley then told Werby he was offended.
Werby again stated that he would keep the acronym from becoming a problem, adding that he foresees, “a future where marijuana is less stigmatized,” and noting that many liquor stores contain the word “liquor” in their names. He also apologized for the fact the commissioners felt their trust was betrayed.
No one in attendance at the meeting spoke out against granting a license to the business, leaving Whiting to make a motion to approve the medical marijuana center license with the caveats that the state license must be issued and that the business and BoCC agreed the acronym “POT” would not be referenced.
Wadley seconded the motion to allow for discussion and again expressed his frustration.
Wadley said the ordinance gave clear instructions on names, and that he felt the business duo had thumbed their noses at the board.
“If you’re going to do that with the name, how are you going to operate the business?” Wadley asked.
Whiting stated that, while marijuana businesses will one day be commonplace, they weren’t yet and the board needed to tread carefully, which he stated they had done.
Lucero said he was totally against the business initially because of the name, but that several members of the Democratic Party called him.
The license was granted by unanimous vote.
Next was an optional premises cultivation license, which produced far less discussion and was also approved unanimously.
On July 9, the BoCC passed the ordinance (11-2013) allowing new medical marijuana operations within the unincorporated county. That ordinance went into effect on July 18, when the moratorium that was in place expired.
In general, the ordinance allows for properly licensed medical marijuana centers, medical marijuana-infused products manufacturing and optional premises cultivation operations that are run under identical ownership, in conjunction with and adjacent to centers.
Medical marijuana businesses are allowed within commercial and industrial zones within unincorporated Archuleta County. The Town of Pagosa Springs does not allow the businesses.
Additionally, all medical marijuana businesses must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, day care facilities, churches or dedicated public parks. The businesses must also be at least 250 feet from residential- or Planned Unit Development-zoned areas, unless there is a highway between the area and the business (such as U.S. 160). All measurements are from the property line of the school, church, park, etc. to the nearest portion of the building in which the medical marijuana and related products are sold.
Other provisions included in the ordinance cover security and license renewal, and make clear that medical marijuana and related products cannot be used within 50 feet of the businesses.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, Archuleta County had only one licensed medical marijuana dispensary that was allowed to function during years of moratoriums — Good Earth Meds, which operates out of Cloman Industrial Park, near the airport.