WELD COUNTY, Colo. - While the majority of Weld County cities have banned recreational marijuana shops, the small town of Garden City is embracing the pot business.
The town of 300 has four medical marijuana shops currently, three of which have applied to sell recreational marijuana in 2014. Town Mayor Brian Seifried said they discussed the issue but decided it was the best move.
"Garden City has a history of being the community in the area that does things a little bit differently," Seifried said. "We decided since it speaks so closely to the history of our community that it would be the right choice for us."
To understand that history, you must look back to why the town was founded in the late 1930s.
"Back in prohibition there was a gentleman named A.F. Ray that sold booze out of watermelons as the story goes," Mayor Seifried said. "When prohibition was repealed he decided he wanted to open a liquor store and a bar and had to incorporate his own town to do so. So he moved in 50 people and a couple years and some court battles later, Garden City was incorporated and became the local watering hole."
Nature's Herbs and Wellness is one of the pot shops in the town. Owner John Rotherham opened the medical marijuana dispensary in 2009 after the recession hit his car restoration business. At that time, he never imagined he would be building a second grow house and doubling his production four years later.
"Total in the garden, we’re running about 1,600 [plants]. We are way under production. I have enough licenses to grow 4,200 plants," Rotherham said. But he added that those numbers are soar with his recreational license. "The production cap is 10,200 plants, so it's going to go way up."
His business averages more than 100 customers a day from all over the area. While 7NEWS crews were filming, we met a client from Julesburg.
"It’s one of the most convenient and closest," Bryan Dickerson explained. "It’s about a two-hour drive."
Rotherham serves clients from the Eastern Plains stretching to Estes Park and that number is only expected to grow.
The town contracts with the Weld County Sheriff's Office to provide its law enforcement. Deputies there tell 7NEWS since the legalization of medical marijuana they've had a few incidents in Garden City, but nothing significant.
"Garden City has a pretty storied history about being the spot where people go to let their hair down a little," sheriff's bureau Chief Steve Reams said. "I can't say the marijuana shops in Garden City have increased crime overall in the community. We have had some specific crimes targeted at some of those marijuana shops but that crime has not bled over to other parts of the town."
While the move was an unpopular one for most of the county, the mayor said town officials believe the recreational marijuana industry will be a boon for the town.
He cited a significant increase in sales tax revenue. In October 2008, the city took in $16,000 in sales tax revenue. In October of this year, they took in $67,000. Town officials said part of that was a 1 percent increase in sales tax overall, but most of it was the domino effect from medical marijuana shops setting up in town, Seifried said.