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Marijuana ordinance tabled to allow more public input

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Discussion of a marijuana ordinance before the Paonia Board of Trustees was tabled at the Sept. 26 meeting to give the public and the board more time to consider its implications. The draft ordinance was also referred to the town Public Safety and Governmental Affairs committee for review.

According to its title, the ordinance calls for "regulating the possession of marijuana" within town limits.

The ordinance will allow for enforcement of in-town grow laws at the municipal level, said Mayor Charles Stewart. Because it is not addressed in the town code, the police department currently must refer grow violations to the district attorney's office. "It would be beneficial if we could deal with it here at the municipal level," said Stewart.

Based on past municipal elections, medical and recreational marijuana businesses, sales, production, processing and manufacturing are banned and are regulated under town code.

The draft ordinance largely mirrors state statute, including the growing of plants for medicinal use (by persons holding state medical marijuana cards). Per the ordinance, "Not more than 12 marijuana plants would be allowed to be grown, cultivated or processed on any single property within town limits only if contained in an enclosed and locked space."

Recreational grow laws will be more restrictive than state statute, which the state allows. Under a new Colorado law, beginning Jan. 1, 2018, "...residences will be limited to a maximum of 12 (recreational) plants unless certain requirements are met," according to the state website.

Under the new ordinance, beginning Jan. 1, all Paonia households would be restricted to a total of six plants for recreational use.

All structures where plants are grown must also comply "with applicable building and fire codes, including plumbing and electrical, and all applicable zoning codes," including setbacks and height requirements. Violations shall be punishable by a fine of $250 for the first offense, and a summons into municipal court would be issued for each additional offense, with fines not to exceed $999, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year; or both. Each day a violation is committed shall be deemed a separate offense.

Trustee Barry Pennell requested that the agenda item be tabled. "We need to get feedback from the public before we go from no ordinance to a very strict ordinance," said Pennell.

Trustee Chelsea Bookout called the draft ordinance "a little unclear" and said it raises a lot of questions. Since it's not a pressing issue, Bookout also asked that it be tabled.

Mayor Pro Tem David Bradford voted against tabling discussion, "...so that we could have some discussion on it, and at some point, perhaps, table it."

Mayor Stewart agreed that some discussion would be helpful.

The ordinance could be placed on the agenda for consideration as early as Oct. 10.

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