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Marijuana taxes eyed as possible solution

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The idea of Orchard City turning to marijuana as a town government tax source first came up at the end of a budget work session last September. Mayor Ken Volgamore took a straw poll of trustees on the marijuana-as-revenue issue. No decisions were made at that time.

The mayor later told the DCI that he felt he had a near unanimous positive response from the straw poll. He explained that the town had been in contact with "a woman in Cedaredge" who was involved with developing a large, indoor, commercial marijuana growing and processing operation in Saguache County. The contact with the woman, the mayor said, had come through his son, Chris, a building contractor whose construction business was connected with the Sagauche project.

The few details available at that time were vague. Trustee Dick Kirkpatrick was tasked to research issues and report back to the full board. Kirkpatrick presented the results of his research -- a town budget analysis and a marijuana industry report -- on Jan. 4 at the trustees' monthly work session.

In his report, Kirkpatrick dealt with the town's declining revenues and reserve fund depletion, and with ideas for increasing town revenue including allowing retail and commercial marijuana businesses in town as a means of raising tax money. (See related story.)

The DCI has learned that the woman in Cedaredge to whom Volgamore referred back in September is Shauna DeMoss, the principal of a company called Vanguard Consulting and Development LLC located near Cedaredge. The company filed its LLC with the Colorado Secretary of State last March. In an interview with the DCI, DeMoss described her business as a consultancy that helps business startups and particularly including marijuana businesses needing help with various government permit requirements.

During the interview, DeMoss explained that her company is involved with developing a large, commercial marijuana project in Saguache County, which allows commercial marijuana operations. The businesses are permitted and regulated through that county's land use planning process.

DeMoss said that her association with Chris Volgamore was one of asking his construction company to submit a bid for work on the Sagauche project.

She explained that she had found out "through the grapevine that Orchard City is interested in augmenting" its town revenues. She also told the DCI that she was approached "by individuals" to provide information to Orchard City. DeMoss is the author of a seven-page report, "Legal Cannabis Industry Overview," that was distributed to the town trustees as part of Kirkpatrick's research report during the Jan. 4 work session

DeMoss emphasized repeatedly that she has had no official contact with Orchard City about any proposal to develop marijuana businesses in Orchard City "at this time."

She added, "The truth is that I and my company, the people I am involved with, would consider bringing a legal cannabis project" to the Orchard City/Delta County area. "In the future it might come up," she noted; but, only if the social and political climate opposing marijuana business were to change

During his Jan. 4 budget presentation, Kirkpatrick said, "There have been no positive votes on [marijuana business] in Delta County." His budget report cites landslide opposition from Orchard City voting precincts to the state constitution question on legalizing marijuana.

There has never been an Orchard City-only, up-or-down vote on the marijuana issue.

The Orchard City Town Board has adopted local "opt out" ordinances prohibiting medical marijuana and recreational marijuana businesses of any kind in the town. Therefore, as it was noted during the Jan. 4 work session, it would take only a town board repeal of either or both ordinances to pave the legal way for marijuana business in Orchard City without a vote of the people.

About two years ago, Cedaredge dealt with a similar situation created when a Redlands Mesa businessman proposed a marijuana edible products manufacturing enterprise in a vacant meat packing plant on East Main Street. Cedaredge, like Orchard City, has adopted ordinances against marijuana businesses of all kinds. The business proposal was turned down by trustees following strong citizen outpouring in opposition at a special public hearing that was held.

The report that DeMoss prepared for the Orchard City trustees deals with various issues and information about the legal marijuana industry. Among other matters, it deals with industry regulation, access restrictions to commercial facilities, product safety, security, and requirements for state licensed owner/operators. Of particular interest to town trustees is information detailing projections for tax revenues available from commercial and from sample retail marijuana business models.

The DeMoss report is highly friendly to the marijuana industry. She told the DCI, "The legal cannabis industry is something totally different from all the things people have heard about illegal marijuana."

One Orchard City town trustee who might take exception to that view is Craig Fuller. He was the one trustee who voiced opposition, strongly, during the mayor's straw poll on marijuana business back in September. Fuller has provided the executive summary of a federal law enforcement report covering three states. Compiled by the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, it documents, among other things, the increases in traffic crashes, increased emergency room visits and hospitalizations, linked to marijuana use, and increased marijuana use by minors since Colorado voters first legalized marijuana. The full 170-page report has been found online at: www.rmhidta.org/reports

The current discussion about marijuana business in Orchard City is neither the first nor the only occurrence of the issue coming up here. Marijuana business entrepreneurs see the abundant land and water at Orchard City available far cheaper than that available elsewhere in the state.

During the Jan. 4 work session, a local real estate broker in attendance told the board, "They're waiting to come."

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Tags: 
Business, Cedaredge, Marijuana, Orchard City
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