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Paonia cannabis ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1

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Paonia residents planning to grow cannabis plants will have new laws to comply with beginning Jan. 1.

At the Nov. 28 board meeting trustees unanimously passed Ordinance 2017-12, "regulating the possession of marijuana" in town. The ordinance was drafted in response of House Bill 17-1220, "concerning measures to stop diversion of legal marijuana to the illegal market." The bill, in part, addressed a law that allows primary caregivers to grow greater number of plants for medicinal use, resulting in large-scale residential cultivation.

The town ordinance will limit the number of plants grown in private residences to 12, and applies to both recreational and medicinal plants. Plants must also be contained at all times in an enclosed, locked space. All greenhouses will be subject to the town's Municipal Code under "accessory buildings."

The plant count limit is also in response to complaints from the public about noxious odors coming from large grows, said Police Chief Neil Ferguson. Limiting the number of plants and keeping them in an enclosed structure should help with odor control. Because the town already forbids activities that adversely affect the health or safety of residents, including those that result in "dust, glare, heat, noise, noxious gasses, odor, smoke, traffic, vibration" or other impacts, the ordinance allows for penalties based on complaints of odors.

"The proposed ordinance will give the town authority to enforce certain marijuana laws at the municipal level, rather than having them enforced at the county court level," said Mayor Charles Stewart.

The ordinance originally came before trustees in September and was tabled at the request of trustees to allow for more public input. A public meeting hosted by the Governmental Affairs and Public Safety committee to hear concerns was held on Nov. 1.

Trustee Barry Pennell, who serves on the committee, said that comments received resulted in two changes. The original draft limited households to six recreational and 12 medicinal plants. We felt that was a little confusing," said Pennell.

By limiting the number of plants to 12, regardless of intended use, eliminates confusion and simplifies law enforcement efforts, said Pennell. "We wanted to keep this simple, keep it manageable, honor everybody's Constitutional right."

As a deterrent, the fine was increased from $250 to $500 for the first offense.

"I think that it looks like a good ordinance, from a legal perspective," said town attorney Bo Nerlin.

The ordinance will be adopted on second reading at the Dec. 12 board meeting. Copies are available at Town Hall or on the town website, townofpaonia.com.

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