Not long after deciding to allow recreational marijuana sales in town, the city of Craig is dipping its toes into the possibility of taking the next step: Legalizing the product’s use within the establishments that sell it.
Currently, Craig — like most municipalities where retail pot is legal — only allows a purchaser of the product to use it in private. It’s not legal for someone to walk over to Rocky Mountain Cannabis, for example, buy some pot and smoke up on the premises.
That practice is referred to as “cannabis hospitality,” and it’s something Craig is now lightly exploring.
“We invited a gentleman, an attorney who had a lot to do with crafting the current statutes related to cannabis hospitality,” city manager Peter Brixius said in a phone interview.
That attorney, Jason Warf, is scheduled to speak with City Council on July 13 to educate members on options should they decide to make this legal.
“Lots of people feel it’s no different than having a bar set up,” Brixius pointed out. “Some other people are on the other side of the fence, but to some, it’s why not have that same latitude?”
Councilmember Paul James, who is also the manager of Rocky Mountain Cannabis and who was elected in part on the back of his platform to work toward loosening restrictions on pot in the city, told the Craig Press he is one of the primary catalysts for Warf coming to speak to the council.
“If we jump on the ball with this, we can be some of the first doing it,” James said. “My belief is we need to focus on tourism here. It’s very important, I think that’s a viable thing. We don’t need to rely on one thing, that’s how we got in this situation in the first place. We need 10 smaller industries to replace the one big thing we’re losing, and this is part of that.”
Whether marijuana hospitality can hoist a shovelful in the direction of the massive hole that will be left by the departure of the coal industry in a handful of years remains to be seen, but others in the industry agree it could be a step in that direction — if the city moves quickly enough.
“We spent the better part of a decade telling City Council cannabis would be good for Craig,” said Shaun Hadley, owner of HoneyBear Apothecary. “We heard every excuse. What about the kids? Drug money? Fast forward to now, all these businesses are here, new jobs, people coming to town, decrepit buildings that hadn’t been updated in decades are getting completely renovated and redone. It can only mean good things.”
Hadley said there was something lost, though, in the city taking so long to move on recreational legalization.
“We sat around for six, seven years on recreational cannabis,” he said. “Just going, ‘Let’s see what others do,’ watching everybody else. We missed out. We lost a part of our town. I guarantee if they passed recreational cannabis seven years ago, things would’ve been better. If they’d listened to us, and been ahead of the curve, we could’ve been in an awesome situation. A lot of people, including me, would have better lives.”
James, who noted he’s likely to have to recuse himself from any potential vote on the issue in council, said much of what the city already relies on would be boosted by allowing on-site pot consumption.
“Hunting season is a big one — it was huge for us last year, James said.
And hunting isn’t all. James said people come to Craig just to buy pot, but they’re leaving without spending as much time or money in town as they could be.
“We’re bringing people to town,” he said of the industry. “They come, they buy their weed, maybe go to Walmart or eat out, then leave. If you provide them with an alternative, somewhere to use the product, it increases their stay in our community and then they’re spending their money here and staying longer. It’s tourism.”
Hadley said it’s not just a bar-type setting that hospitality advocates are thinking of.
“Approach it as a restaurant, approach it as a bar,” he said. “Or, my ideal, and this is me being a huge nerd, how about a video game lounge where people can play some video games, arcade games, and smoke while you’re there.”