By Lucas Vader
The Town of Cedaredge Board of Trustees discussed the prospect of retail marijuana on June 25. It discussed it further on Thursday.
This time, the board listened to a presentation by Rachelle Redmond, the agent in charge at the Grand Junction office of the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue.
After the presentation, the board discussed results from a local survey that went out to everyone in the town’s email system. This survey allegedly came back showing that 70% of respondents in town were for retail marijuana. It also indicated that the people who are in favor are generally in favor due to the extra revenue it would bring to the town, as well as the extra clientele that local businesses would see from people coming in.
For respondents outside of town limits, 67% were reportedly in favor.
Individual trustees on the board reported that business owners are more frequently in favor of retail marijuana than they are against it.
Town Administrator Greg Brinck brought an estimation to the board of what that revenue could potentially look like. He reported it wouldn’t necessarily be a “huge windfall” and it wouldn’t miraculously make the town suddenly prosperous. However, it could end up bringing in about $50-70,000 a year. Brinck added the estimation is on the conservative side, and it could be more than that.
Upon a few requests from the board, Brinck also summarized letters from different entities in the county. Some were for the idea and some were against. These letters came after town staff sent out emails informing surrounding organizations about its discussions.
Delta County School District 50J Superintendent Caryn Gibson responded to say the school district could not give its support for marijuana retail, though Brinck indicated he would never expect a school district anywhere to support it.
Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor also replied with discouragement. Taylor said in his letter that he feared it would negatively impact his agency, as well as other surrounding law enforcement agencies. It is notable that Cedaredge Police Chief Joe Roberts has consistently favored retail marijuana, trusting statistics in various studies that indicate little to no rise in crime rates due to retail.
Taylor also worried the revenue could discourage the Back the Badge sales tax initiative for county law enforcement, but most of the board disagreed, figuring that it might actually encourage people to vote for Back the Badge if they’re worried about any repercussions from bringing in retail.
Other organizations said they wouldn’t take a stance on the issue for various reasons.
Redmond brought a number of advantages of retail marijuana to the board’s attention, many of which reinforced statistics previously presented by Brinck. For instance, she confirmed statistics that indicate no rise in youth use in towns with retail marijuana, as youth who use tend to get their marijuana from black market sources.
According to Redmond, marijuana retail is strictly regulated as a secure, completely legal storefront. Tight restrictions make it nearly impossible for underage people to purchase from a legal retail store.
“That’s a big driving factor in the importance of us making sure that we maintain the integrity of the industry because Colorado really was a leader in bringing this stuff to the regulating market,” Redmond said.
In 2012, when Amendment 64 passed and allowed retail marijuana to be legal at the state level in Colorado, the amendment only passed with 54% of the votes, which Redmond considered a close vote. As regulation of the industry was perfected, other states began legalizing as well, to a point where it’s less stigmatized. It is fully legal in 10 states and expected to soon be fully legal in another handful of around 10. Medical only is legal in 11 states, while marijuana is completely illegal still in 18 states.
As part of the story of retail marijuana, Redmond provided a history of pot within the state, including the legalization of medical marijuana in 2000, followed later by the legalization of retail in 2012.
After the eight years since, certain aspects still throw complications into the subject, such as the fact that it is still illegal at the federal level, and therefore there is limited federal oversight of the industry, such as with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
There’s also a lack of historical science and research on the drug, though in her presentation, Redmond said it is an “innovative, dynamic industry.”
A majority of Redmond’s presentation focused on the number of ways the industry is strictly regulated.
Industrial hemp cultivations are regulated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. CBD that comes out of that hemp for consumable products down the line are regulated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue takes care of the retail stores, taking multiple steps to ensuring that all retailers are in compliance.
All retailers must be licensed. Their certification is shown by different badges that the retailers have to wear, indicating which portions of the industry for which they are certified. An application process and a background check are required to obtain these licenses.
They track “the people, the places, the plants, the products,” Redmond said. “Everything’s taxed and everything’s tested.”
The employees of the industry are tracked through the licenses, the locations must be approved for business, inventory of products is scrupulously kept up to date to ensure there are no under-the-table illegal deals happening in secret.
To be in compliance, all products must go through full testing to ensure they are safe for consumption.
On a further layer of precautions, the products cannot be under suspicion of being marketed toward children. Products have to be in child-resistant packaging, and the product itself cannot legally be purposefully enticing to children either. The example Redmond gave for this regulation is that gummies can’t be in the shape of bears.
If a retailer is caught selling to an underage person, it is a crime which would require a summons to be issued against the retailer for legal prosecution.
There is to be no consumption of products on the premises, and any given product can be put on hold for investigation at any given time. The Marijuana Enforcement Division has the ability to quickly and easily take higher administrative actions against retailers which are out of compliance, and as the products and people are heavily regulated, many noncompliances are not difficult to catch.
The board of trustees moved on from Redmond’s presentation to discuss calling an election for the ballot measure at the upcoming regular meeting. The board was mostly in favor of approving the ballot measure so the item for retail marijuana can go out to the residents of Cedaredge so they can vote on the matter.
Only Trustee Cathy Brown continued to speak up completely against the notion of marijuana in Cedaredge with the mindset that the revenue that would come from it wouldn’t be worth the problems it would cause.
“Why encourage a drug outbreak in our small town in the first place?” Brown said. “I don’t care if it’s legitimate or not, it’s not good for society, and as a leader of our town, we’re responsible for our citizens.”
Trustee Heidi Weissner stepped in to argue the point of responsibility, agreeing there is not an extensive amount of research on marijuana, but that there are inaccurate numbers on both sides of the argument.
When Brown said that it’s still a drug, Weissner said, “So is alcohol, and so is nicotine.” She went on to say that alcohol can impair judgment and cause issues in the same manner as marijuana, but it comes down to personal responsibility in any case.
The board’s general consensus was the measure needs to go to the public so that it is more than just seven people on a board deciding whether or not it should be allowed in a town that is shared by over 2,000 people.
As the deadline for calling an election for the November election is July 24, the board will ultimately vote whether the measure will show up on November’s ballot. This vote will take place at Thursday’s town meeting at 5 p.m.
At a later date, as the ballot language is constructed for the issue, the board can solidify details, deciding pieces such as medical versus recreational, or both. Further details will go into it, and the subject of retail marijuana in Cedaredge will allegedly most likely be addressed in more than one question on the ballot.
Cedaredge town meetings are still virtual at this time, but the link to the online Zoom meeting will be available on the meeting agenda within 24 hours of Thursday’s meeting.
Anyone who wishes to read about the first extensive marijuana discussion of the board, which includes Brinck’s gathered statistics on the matter, can do so on the DCI website or in the July 1 edition of the DCI.
The Town of Cedaredge posted the sources for their research on their Facebook page Monday. Their information comes from the following sources: