My family and I have lived in Delta County for 20 years. For 17 years, we resided on Pitkin Mesa outside Paonia.
After our children left for college, my wife and I moved into town. As a citizen of Paonia, I am concerned how the implementation of Amendment 64 will affect Paonia.
A majority of Coloradans voted in favor of Amendment 64, and as a result, the use of marijuana, although illegal under federal law, is legal under state law. Amendment 64 specifically allows a county or a town to prohibit retail marijuana sales through the enactment of an ordinance or through a vote of the people living in that locality. At a Paonia Board of Trustees' work session held on Aug. 13, three people, all of whom reside outside of Paonia, spoke in favor of allowing retail marijuana sales within the town. Not surprisingly, all three intend to open marijuana shops in Paonia. Several individuals present, all residing within the town, spoke against allowing retail sales in Paonia. At the Aug. 13 work session, trustee Eric Goold suggested that a vote as to whether to allow retail sales of marijuana be held that evening. Due to the lack of notice, no vote was held. However, it was clear that the issue would be raised again at the Aug. 27 meeting.
At the present time, Delta County, Montrose County, Gunnison County, Mesa County, the City of Montrose, the City of Delta and the towns of Hotchkiss, Cedaredge and Crawford have banned retail marijuana sales. The City of Grand Junction is in the process of banning retail marijuana sales. The persons who spoke in favor of allowing retail marijuana sales bragged that Paonia would be able to corner the market. Their desire is to make money; their concern is not the welfare of the people of Paonia.
From 2006 to 2011, traffic fatalities in the state decreased 16%. In the same time period traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana increased 114%. If retail marijuana sales are allowed, people will come to Paonia from all over the Western Slope to buy marijuana. A significant portion of them will smoke marijuana while they are in Paonia. They will leave town, traveling the same roads and highways traveled by the people of Paonia. The Denver Post recently reported that one third of the crimes committed in Denver in 2012 occurred within 1,000 feet of a marijuana dispensary. By permitting localities to allow retail sales while other localities ban them, Amendment 64 has created a bad situation. The negative impact of marijuana sales will be concentrated in a few communities.
Smoking marijuana, like drinking alcohol, can have very negative consequences. However, I believe in individual liberty and adults should be free to make their own decision as to whether they wish to smoke marijuana. Regardless of how you feel about marijuana use, having marijuana stores concentrated in a few towns is a bad idea. I would have the same objection to alcohol sales if Paonia were the only town in the area which allowed liquor stores. In 2010, the citizens of Paonia voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. If they voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, why would they not vote to ban recreational marijuana stores? Paonians have been very protective of their way of life. Does Paonia really want to be known as the pot capital of the Western Slope? Why would the trustees make what could be a fundamental change to Paonia without at least a vote of the people? The town is clearly in search of tax revenue. Perhaps the board of trustees should re-evaluate its spending before it makes a risky decision in search of a quick buck (the buck will not be large after the state takes its share). The trustees should ban retail marijuana sales or, at a minimum, impose a moratorium until the people can vote on the issue, even if that vote cannot occur until 2014.
Charles G. Stewart