Montezuma County bans retail pot sales, grow sites

Commission faces some opposition, but moves swiftly to approve ban

Keywords: Dolores Star,

Citing Colorado laws that allow adults to grow their recreational marijuana and expressing a general distaste for the drug, Montezuma County commissioners voted Monday to prohibit licensed commercial grow operations and retail sales within county jurisdiction.

Commissioners took some heat Monday for their anti-pot stance during a public hearing, but also heard from supporters of the ban.

"Your mind was already made up," said Ed Sheets, of Lewis, who urged the county to reconsider and reap the economic benefits and jobs retail marijuana sales could bring to the area.

"It's a business opportunity that I could make money off of locally. The county would also realize tax benefits."

Kelly Henderson, of County Road G, spoke for the ban, and is concerned about health affects for her family because of marijuana growing nearby.

"My daughter has a condition that requires she exercises, but all you smell when you go outside is marijuana, so she has to stay inside," she said.

Deelynn Ford pointed out that public officials, law enforcement, and residents need to understand the distinction between medical marijuana and recreational.

"I fear medical marijuana patients who are prescribed the medicine under Colorado law will be unfairly targeted under this ban," she said.

Commissioner Chappell pointed out that the ban only targets commercial and retail grow sites, testing facilities, and sales.

The ban does not include medical marijuana card holders. Also any adult 21 and over is still allowed to grow up to six plants of marijuana for personal use under Amendment 64 laws passed in 2012.

"You can still grow it on your own for personal use," he said, including for medical or recreational purposes.

Keeping retail pot shops in towns is more practical, testified county resident Jamie Boyd.

"They require a lot of safeguards and regulations. I feel it would be a lot for the county to deal with," he said.

Sheriff Dennis Spruell agreed with the ban, and stated it would be a financial burden for the county that might not pay for itself.

"I'd need at least a full-time officer that spends all of his time monitoring (retail sales, commercial grow operations)," he said. "It would cost the county an additional $90,000 per year when you figure in salaries, gas, vehicle and benefits."

The commissioner swiftly passed the ban on retail sales, testing facilities,and commercial grow operations for marijuana.

The law adds to a county resolution already on the books prohibiting retail sales and commercial grow operations for medicinal marijuana facilities legalized in Colorado in 2000.

Under both Amendment 20 allowing prescribed sales of marijuana for medical purposes, and Amendment 64 allowing recreation sales of marijuana, towns and counties can opt out if they choose.

"I have don't have truck with medicinal marijuana prescribed by a doctor, but I have a social disagreement with recreational marijuana," said commissioner Keenan Ertel. "I have discomfort with (legalizing) a mind-altering drug. This was handed down from the Eastern Slope. Our county voted against it."

When it comes to industrial hemp production, also legalized statewide under Amendment 64, the commissioners were more interested.

"I am for growing hemp in the county. It is used for manufacturing rope and textiles, and you can't smoke it," said Larry Don Suckla. "The U.S. was not made by people being happy all the time."

County Attorney John Baxter said "the county can permit hemp production separately."

"Hemp is more of an agricultural product we should discuss," Ertel said.

The commissioners plan to invite Sharon Stuart of Hemp Talks to give a presentation to county officials and the public.

jmimiaga@cortezjournal.com