Although I did not name names in a previous letter about the postings of a Paonia council member, Larry Wissbeck correctly assumed that I was referring to him. Larry's reply about not having made up his mind on the issue tells me that what I perceived as his opinion is wrong.
His letter also tells readers that he is putting considerable thought into many aspects of having a recreational marijuana outlet in this small community.
That I expect thoughtful deliberation from our trustees doesn't diminish the fact that I am grateful for it and even impressed by it. As to whether lifelong residents should have more say in the future of the town than new residents, I believe that is a less important question than "What brought you here/what keeps you here" regardless of the length of your residency. Was it the small town feel of knowing your neighbors, merchants, ranchers, growers and service providers while living in a beautiful valley or was it to promote a change to some other type of community?
I do not believe the legalization of marijuana or the presence of a retail store will impact the underground market at all. Avoidance of regulations and sales taxes is big business and even legal substances are "trafficked" worldwide. The thriving underground market has not kept young people safe from exposure, but illegality acted as a deterrent, however small, that will no longer exist with retail stores. Removing the onus and increasing the tolerance for easily concealed intoxicants promotes the perception among youth that marijuana use is "okay," that sobriety is unimportant and so forth.
The cost of security and police protection would only increase if the majority of voters express a desire for strong enforcement policies. Browsing news articles, it would seem clear that the more "vices" a community tolerates, the less vigorous enforcement policies become. Having been a public employee in the past, I also have some experience in incidents and policies that couldn't be publicized because exposure would harm property values, tourism, local commerce, etc. How many incidents and how much information do residents want kept from them? How many truths will be "inconvenient?"
The size of this town has much to do with the divisiveness of this issue. Should a town this small become a "destination" for getting high? Crumbling infrastructure and bad sidewalks need more traffic, especially transient traffic? I do not believe that a retail pot shop could generate enough sales tax revenue to pay for the increase in traffic problems let alone any improvements.
As to the question of whether a retail pot shop would compromise "each and every" community value as Larry asks, I do believe that allowing one would create far more harm than benefit.