Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — High Valley Healing is one step closer to opening for business in Alamosa County.
The Alamosa County Commissioners (ACC) unanimously approved Diane Dunlap’s special permit application to open the medical marijuana center (MMC) and herbal remedy store in the vacant Spectracom building west of the city on Highway 160.
For the past year, the county has been working with Dunlap, who owns the High Valley Healing Center in Crestone and manages a 44-acre medical marijuana growing operation in Saguache County, to find a suitable location that meets the rules and regulations the county developed to accommodate the voter-approved legislation. The Highway 160 suite was Dunlap’s fourth attempt to secure a building, which will also house a garden center and energy resource business in the future.
Before High Valley Healing can open, however, Dunlap must receive state approval, which is already in the works. She said she expects to have her state MMC licensure for the Alamosa location soon, definitely meeting the 180-day county deadline to obtain such documents.
High Valley Healing, the second MMC the ACC have approved this year, will provide services to 80 percent of Dunlap’s patients that travel from Alamosa, Monte Vista and Del Norte for their pain medicine, she said.
“It’s a two hour round trip to Crestone,” said Dunlap, whose northern Valley operations have gone without incident since 2010. “It will be much less of a hardship.”
The ACC approved the special use permit with a set of conditions the Alamosa County planning commission and staff recommended. The conditions include obtaining and submitting state MMC permits and licenses, and other county permits to the county; a stipulation for zero marijuana consumption on the premises; age restrictions; federal marijuana law signage; label details and random and annual compliance inspections. The conditions also prevent the permit from being transferred to another individual and require the MMC establish limited access areas.
Additionally, the ACC approved the permit with the understanding that Dunlap will adhere to set of hours of operation, meaning she can keep her doors open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and she is expected to stay shut on all recognized holidays.
The permit does not allow permit Dunlap to establish growing or packaging operations, and defaults to state law regarding other MMC aspects like security.
Alamosa resident Lorna Sowards was not pleased with application, and told the commissioners why the community doesn’t need another MMC.
“I am opposed to this,” said Sowards, who brought her sentiments in front of the ACC earlier this year. “I do not think Alamosa needs another.”
She disagreed with the county’s statement that the MMC would not change the face of Alamosa, but that it would rather leave a bad impression on those traveling into town on the highway.
“I strongly believe it would violate the character,” Sowards said. “I disagree it would not adversely affect the citizens.”
Alamosa resident Brad Heredia also spoke out against Dunlap’s business plans, claiming the MMC unnecessary and that its location will cause a fatal traffic hazard.
“You let in one cockroach, you are going to get more,” he said, referencing the ACC's decision earlier this year to allow La Casa Cannabis to open in the county. “I believe we need more business. We don’t need that kind of business.”
In defense of MMCs, Alamosa resident Benito Pacheco said Dunlap is bringing something good to the county.
“America was built on free enterprise,” Pacheco said. “If she wants to do it, more power to her... She is providing a service to sick people.”
The ACC ultimately approved the MMC because it reflects the wants of the community at-large and meets all the county's land use requirements.
“We’ve come up with rules and regulations to oversee these,” said Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
He reminded Dunlap that it is imperative that she minds the permit and follows all the conditions.
“If there is violation of the special use permit, your operation could lose its status,” Allen said. “No if, ands or buts about it.”
Alamosa County Commissioner Marianne Dunne added, “I’m delighted... It (the Spectracom building) has been vacant for a long time.”