By Lucas Vader
This article is from Nov. 9, 2020 and is online in its entirety.
On Nov. 3, Election Day, an allowance for retail marijuana within Cedaredge city limits passed, along with an additional sales tax of 5%.
Unlike last year, Delta County had a completely successful election cycle this year, as every ballot measure at the county level passed. Beyond measures for marijuana in both Cedaredge and Paonia, this also includes the Back the Badge initiative and the Colorado River Water Conservation District measure.
For the Town of Cedaredge, passing the initiative for marijuana, which includes both recreational and medical types, is a first step in actually making it happen.
The town board of trustees approved the measure for the ballot during the summer, ultimately approving the final ballot language in September. The only focus from the perspective of the town was to generate more revenue, hence the additional tax.
Community surveys, which town staff distributed through emails to those within their system, indicated that, on average, residents of Cedaredge felt similarly. The main idea was increasing revenue for the town. That idea was further proven when the attached sales tax increase passed with more votes than the initial measure which asked to allow it in the first place (804 votes to allow it, 897 votes to add the 5% tax).
Furthermore, the same surveys asked residents which town issues they would like to see addressed with the additional revenue. Via the survey, the Cedaredge Police Department, transportation, parks and recreation came out ahead. The board took the input and included it specifically in the ballot language.
The language specifies that the Town of Cedaredge is not to allow retail marijuana until the start of 2021, but until then, all members of the board have agreed that approving a marijuana retailer must be done with extreme caution.
Trustee Heidi Weissner commented on the matter in an email after the election.
“It is important that the town chooses a well-run, clean, respectable, and reputable establishment for our community, and we intend to do so,” Weissner said. “We will investigate all applicants.”
Furthermore, as the board previously discussed, Weissner again pointed out that parameters and approval of any and all retailers will be to the sole discretion of the town board of trustees. While those parameters have not been officially set, the board did previously agree overall that no one would like to see more than one or two retailers at the most.
“We will not allow our town to become a community of numerous marijuana establishments, such as Parachute,” Weissner said. “We will bring in respectable establishments and limit the footprint. We do not want our town to be known as just a marijuana stop. We have so much more to offer, and marijuana will be just one small aspect of that.”
Trustee Cathy Brown also commented on next steps. Throughout all marijuana discussions, Brown vocally opposed bringing marijuana to Cedaredge. She was ultimately the only trustee to vote against putting the measures on the ballot. “Why encourage a drug outbreak in our small town in the first place?” Brown said in June during early discussions. “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.”
Therefore, in the wake of the marijuana measures passing, Brown emphasized that it would be important to “Keep the faith.”
“It is up to every individual citizen to stand strong for decency and a healthy community,” Brown said. “This push to encourage recreational drug use is a very slippery slope.”
Brown referenced Oregon’s recent decriminalization of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine as being a further step down the road of de-stigmatizing drugs.
On the revenue side of the discussion, Brown stated that it will be important for funds to go toward the police department, as well as “treatment and support for drug addiction, education for our youth regarding the harmful effects in contrast to society and governments encouraging recreational drug use for profit.”
Town Administrator Greg Brinck said that the Cedaredge Planning and Zoning Commission’s discussions are beginning to take place currently to determine acceptable locations for retail establishments. Those parameters, once passed along, will be voted upon by the board of trustees.
“The results are still unofficial but as they stand, 56% of voters approved the Town moving forward with adopting laws to regulate the sale of retail and medical marijuana,” Brinck said on Friday. “It will be up to the Board to determine the final regulations.”
Unofficial discussions among the board have determined a preference to keep such a location off Main Street and a good distance from the schools.
Regarding approval and disapproval of Cedaredge allowing retail marijuana, the town earlier reached out to a number of county entities as a courtesy, both to inform of their discussions and to invite input.
Delta County School District 50J and the Delta County Sheriff’s Office both responded to say that they did not support the decision to pursue retail marijuana. Delta County Commissioner Don Suppes has also vocalized his disagreement.
Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor said in his letter that he feared it would negatively impact his agency, as well as other surrounding law enforcement agencies.
Cedaredge Police Chief Joe Roberts, on the other hand, has supported the idea of retail marijuana throughout summer’s discussions, standing by his view that, in his experience, it isn’t legally sold marijuana that causes a drug culture. It’s misuse and the black market.
Now that the marijuana issues have passed, the Cedaredge Police Department, as previously determined, will be the first to see an increase in revenue from whatever retail marijuana sales may happen in town. In addition to the freshly passed Back the Badge sales tax increase, the force is potentially looking at a notable increase in funds.
With Back the Badge funds alone, CPD’s first plan is to add an extra two officers to the force, resulting in a total of seven, including Roberts. They have one vacancy from before, meaning they now have three in their expanded force. CPD is set to receive an estimated $192,239 from the sales tax increase, an overall 7% of the county’s share. The percentage of marijuana revenue that would be budgeted for the police has not yet been set by the board of trustees.
During discussions of bringing pot to town, the board has reviewed statistics from towns that were deemed similar to Cedaredge, and they also partook in a presentation with a representative from the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), which is part of the Colorado Department of Revenue. Most of the statistics and regulations on the retail marijuana industry are most fully explained in the DCI article “Cedaredge takes in more info on retail marijuana, discusses further” from July 13.
Town Administrator Brinck noted that there are “numerous examples” of towns that have adopted laws to regulate the sale of marijuana and that have been successful in their implementation.
In the coming months, the board and town staff will be discussing and implementing next steps.