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Orchard City citizens speak out on pot plan

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Area residents on July 12 pushed back against Orchard City's moves toward allowing marijuana businesses to operate in town. However, not all were opposed. Some spoke of personal benefits from medical marijuana.

• Loretta Busch said that she is "100 percent against marijuana," adding that "children will get marijuana no matter how well regulated the industry is. Parents give it to their kids."

She said, "Marijuana causes problems" and that increased crime would be one result of allowing marijuana businesses in town. She doesn't allow tenants to use it in any of her rentals. "It will cause problems here. Say no to this. It is not a good thing." Busch also noted that people can get medical marijuana if they need it.

•Steve Sheddeck said that he has "no problem with medical marijuana." But he added, "It is not a medicine. It is a drug."

He told trustees, "It is irresponsible for you guys" to allow marijuana businesses to operate in Orchard City. He pointed to a 14 percent increase in homelessness in Denver due to the legalization of recreational marijuana. He told trustees, "It makes people stupid. The youth will be victimized by it."

•Mike Gage told trustees that "marijuana is beneficial to certain types of people, but not to others." Allowing marijuana businesses to operate in Orchard City would "communicate an attitude to our children that this is good stuff." He said that marijuana "is not healthy for our society."

Gage pointed to current social problems that would be made worse by the presence of marijuana. Half of the children in Orchard City are already "falling through the cracks," he said. "It is sad what you are bringing to this community. Children will grow up smoking marijuana."

He said that allowing marijuana business here "will alter the character of our community. People maintain the local quality of life with what they have." He called the town board's initiative "distressing."

• Jay Deason opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Orchard City that was shut down with the town's ordinance banning medical marijuana businesses. He noted that regulations will keep the substance away from children. Other comments he offered were inaudible due to problems with the town hall audio system.

• Carol Keller said that she agrees with Trustee Craig Fuller's view that the town's ordinances against marijuana businesses should not be repealed ahead of a referendum vote. She also questioned even the need for a referendum on the issue stating figures from Orchard City in past marijuana elections. She questioned why results of a local vote on the issue next April would be expected to produce any different results. For example, she said that Orchard City voted 60 percent against the state constitution recreational marijuana issue. Mayor Ken Volgamore replied that the town board is "researching" the issue.

Keller told trustees that children's brains continue to develop until age 25, development that is affected by marijuana smoking among middle schoolers, high schoolers (26.7 within the last 30 days), and by young adults over the age of 18.

Keller said there are other ways to raise revenue. Volgamore replied, "I very much doubt it," adding that revenue to the town from sales and property tax would be insufficient.

Keller said the town board should allow public comment in work sessions. There is never any discussion of issues before voting at business meetings, she said. (Later in the meeting, Trustee Bob Eckels suggested hosting "constituent forum" sessions for discussion of issues.)

• Mike Schmidt said there is no shortage of medical marijuana. Orchard City is "jumping on" a trend as a latecomer. Marijuana will invite organized crime. He speculated that the town might raise revenue from the hops industry instead of from marijuana.

• Bill Coats told trustees that unauthorized grows will be encouraged by allowing marijuana business in town, thus creating a gray market in marijuana locally. He told trustees that legal marijuana "caters to people's weaknesses and makes them weaker."

• Tim Hinz cautioned trustees to "belie the lie" that is concealed within the trustee Cannabis Revenue Committee's report. He said that repealing the town's current marijuana business bans "would leave the town open for anything," and as an aside speculated whether that might be the intention of the recommendation to repeal the bans.

"You, are going for retail" marijuana business in Orchard City, he stated. Citing information he said he obtained from DeBeque town officials, he told trustees that DeBeque's financial windfall from marijuana business has come from retail sales, not from the type of commercial grow operations that Orchard City was considering originally. He said, "The only (commercial) grow operation in DeBeque is going out of business."

Hinz said that DeBeque had to double its police department staffing after allowing marijuana business in town. He agreed with others that marijuana is a commodity business, adding that the price is still going down and has not yet hit bottom. He predicted that if Orchard City allows marijuana business in town, other local towns will follow suit, an occurrence that would dilute any financial benefit to the town. Orchard City has already "missed the boat," he said.

Public comment at the July 12 session included remarks from three local men who presented short personal testimonies on the benefits of medical marijuana.

Andy Wick explained how recently he had difficulty getting up after taking a fall on a skiing outing. The problem was later diagnosed as muscle disorder. A friend suggested use of a medical marijuana oil which has helped him feel much better, he explained.

"I am a proponent of the Cannabis Revenue Committee's recommendations," he said. "There are people in Orchard City who benefit from medical marijuana."

Bob Page of Cedaredge said that he has been using a medical marijuana product for neck pain for three years. He referenced a website that recommends use for epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. He said that marijuana business would be good for the local tax base and good for agriculture.

Bud Holmes said that "marijuana is here to stay." He cited concerns for the local economy and jobs for youth. "The revenue from marijuana is awesome," he said and added that it provides benefit to arthritis sufferers.

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