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MMJ opens at site of traditional nursery... but owner declines to be interviewed about it

       Continuing a tradition dating back to the 1920s, a type of garden nursery is once again operating at 3178 W. Colorado Ave.
       But it is not, as the saying goes, your father's nursery.
       Instead of offering potted plants, Garden of the Budz grows and sells pot. The medical marijuana operation's grand opening was April 20, the national, unofficial stoner “holiday.”
      
The grand opening of the Garden of the Budz dispensary and grow facility took place on April 20, the national, unofficial stoner "holiday." For the occasion, food was being sold outside, at the west end of the building, and a vendor truck was parked in front.
Westside Pioneer photo
Here's another difference: Unlike previous nursery owners at 3178, new owner Tasha Vigil did not want to be interviewed for a news article.
       “At this time, I am not interested in speaking to the media,” she announced in an e-mail to the Westside Pioneer in the wake of a five-minute phone conversation - preceded by one with an employee who had identified himself only as the business' “grower."
       In the e-mail, Vigil said her reticence was based on Pioneer questions she thought were intrusive, primarily one about how many plants would be grown there. “This is a patient-driven industry and privacy, security, safety and keeping my unique business plan private is key,” she wrote. She also accused the Pioneer of being “aggressive” and “condescending.”
       During the phone conversation, Vigil emphasized that she is fully licensed by the city and state and experienced numerous visits from government officials during the building's remodel, including a city councilman. She also said she is aware of the nursery history (most recently Stone Path and before that Red Rock Garden & Greenhouse) and likes the idea of carrying it on.
       But (also in her phone comments), Vigil professed no affection for the nearby residential neighborhood, saying she was hearing complaints about odor from marijuana plants before her facility even started growing them. Additionally, she was critical
A view toward the east side of the Garden of the Budz shows its grow area extending to the north, behind the operation's dispensary on West Colorado Avenue. Including a parking lot behind the grow facility, the Budz property continues north up to the south side of West Pikes Peak Avenue. Partially visible in the background are homes in the Grandview neighborhood that face onto the north side of West Pikes Peak.
Westside Pioneer photo
of local government inspectors, saying she found them overly demanding.
       Vigil did confirm a prior comment by her grower that fewer than 100 plants are being cultivated there at this time. Under state law, the amount that a licensed MMJ grower can produce hinges on its number of patients.
       Patients are those who have convinced a doctor to give them a red card, which allows them under state law to seek pain relief through marijuana bought at dispensaries. There are nearly 11,000 such individuals statewide, city-provided numbers show.
       For reasons that have not been explained, Colorado Springs has more than a fourth (135 in all) of the state's MMJ dispensaries. The city of Denver recently put a cap on the number of such businesses, and Colorado Springs City Council has expressed interest in doing the same.
       The Pioneer contacted Budz because of the location's nursery history, as well as its proximity to the Grandview neighborhood on its back (north) side, off Pikes Peak Avenue. Two Grandview residents, Tom and Mary Gallivan,wrote a letter to the Gazette recently, saying, “we have not been able to open our windows or sit out on our deck in the beautiful Colorado weather because of the MMJ 'stink' from Garden [of the] Budz. Mothballs smell better.”
       The Pioneer had recently interviewed Dustin Divitto of JP Wellness, which is a dispensary (without a grow facility) that opened in a prominent storefront in
A photo looking north from a hogback, dated 1924, shows West Colorado Avenue (left to right in lower part of photo), West Pikes Peak Avenue paralleling it a block to the north and the T-intersection of 32nd Street (middle). A greenhouse (far right) and garden were just east of 32nd. A medical marijuana operation is where the greenhouse was, continuing back to West Pikes Peak, and the lot at the corner is a clothing store. Just west of 32nd was the home of Fred Barr, builder of the Barr Trail.
Ira Current photo; courtesy of Old Colorado City Historical Society
Old Colorado City last year. In the interview, he shared his desire to make his business fit with Old Colorado City's historical style. As evidence of that, he and his partners set up a display of vintage items (visible through the location's transparent plate glass windows) in a front lobby that's open to the public during working hours. A similar old-time look and feel can be found in the dispensary itself. The Pioneer article on JP Wellness is at this link.
       By contrast, Garden of the Budz has darkened front windows, and access from the street is only possible by pushing a buzzer on the wall by the door.
       Budz has a roughly 1,200-square-foot dispensary and 3,000-square-foot growing area, according to the City Clerk's Office. Located in a long rectangular building behind the dispensary, a space that size is capable of producing 2,400 plants, based on recent city calculations that equate 150 square feet with 12 plants.
       To put that in perspective, a six-month study by a city-appointed task force includes a slide stating that 12 plants can produce 384 ounces of marijuana in a year. That amount can turn into 23,040 cigarettes, called “joints,” the slide adds. Applying those rates to 2,400 plants, the total in a year would be 76,800 ounces, or 4,608,000 joints.
       As a side note, the MMJ-regulating ordinances that City Council enacted April 26, as recommended by the task force, do not affect Garden of the Budz. This includes the impact of council's just-approved one-year moratorium on new MMJ facilities (implemented on the heels of a six-month moratorium and meant to consider additional, unforeseen issues, according to council comments). Budz is “grandfathered” at 3178 W. Colorado Ave. because its city license was already approved.
       But if the new regulations had been in effect before that, the grow aspect of the operation would have needed a conditional approval - meaning a public-hearing opportunity for people in the neighborhood. No such requirement existed previously for grows in commercial zones… and still doesn't for dispensaries.
       The new city regulations also reduce the number of plants that can be grown in a single home - from the previous 36 maximum to 12. This was urged by the task force, based in part on police information showing that many homes are being ruined, or rendered unsafe, by high-intensity pot grows.
       City staff had recommended to the task force even more protection for residentially zoned areas - a 1,000-foot setback from grow facilities. Such would have prevented grows next to neighborhoods, like the one at Budz. But the task force turned that down.
       The Pioneer is still interested in an interview with Garden of the Budz. The last e-mail communication to date was from the Pioneer, asking Vigil these questions: “What are you doing with the 'grow' aspect of your business to control the odors? Can you guarantee that people living behind or walking down the street won't smell anything?”
       No response has come back… yet.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 4/28/16; Community: Ongoing Issues)

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