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Paonia trustees ponder pot issue

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At the Jan. 27 meeting of the Paonia town board, a discussion regarding the issue of allowing marijuana businesses within town limits focused largely on jobs and the economy. Trustee Ross King, who requested the discussion, said the creation of jobs, in light of the struggling economy, is a "paramount concern" the board should be discussing. He noted that other area towns are eyeing cannabis sales, production and testing as an "economic generator... We should be discussing it among ourselves and among our community."

King noted that "all the horrible things" predicted ahead of the passage of Amendment 64 legalizing recreational use in the state have not come to pass, and that since the town held elections on the matter, attitudes may have changed.

When asked by trustee Eric Goold how King would respond to citizens who say marijuana is a moral issue, he said he wouldn't argue to peoples' right to object to any mind-altering substances, including alcohol, but that it is a legal business in the state.

"I think this question's been dealt with, 17 months ago," said trustee David Bradford, referring to the November 2013 election in which 52.26 percent (417-366) of voters said no to any related businesses within the town. In September 2013, the town placed a moratorium on all commercial marijuana activities.

Bradford suggested that the sitting board should not entertain another election, but that a new board could after the upcoming election. Nine people have petitioned to run for five seats. "We would be blowing a raspberry to the people of Paonia if we initiated another election at this point," said Bradford.

Trustee Suzanne Watson said the town should be looking at other economic opportunities, including annexing the Stop and Save on Highway 133.

Trustees did find common ground when Bradford suggested that communicating with other towns to determine if they do benefit from sales, or if it's all just hearsay, would be a good use of time. "I think it needs to be studied pretty thoroughly."

"I actually agree with Mr. Bradford on that," said Watson, "and I think it would be nice if this board did take some action in that direction so we do our due diligence and we do look into it instead of just batting ideas around."

Mayor pro tem Charles Stewart pointed out that there is an initiative process citizens can utilize to bring the issue before voters. "It should not be coming from the board," said Stewart, the only one to petition for the mayor's seat.

"If there is a group of people that wants to initiate the process," said King, "I encourage them to do it."

In her regular Town Manager's Report, Jane Berry suggested that trustees and citizens visit the Colorado Municipal League's website and check out the 2016 State of our Towns & Cities report. "Many of the subjects we've been discussing here tonight are addressed in that report," said Berry. (To view the report and associated videos, visit www.cml.org/state_of/).

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