Cortez council advances retail pot law

No public opposition at council meeting; Archibeque stands alone

The Cortez City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday to accept a draft ordinance to regulate retail marijuana sales. Final passage is subject to a public hearing on Aug. 26.

The vote to set a public hearing on Ordinance No. 1192, Series 2014, was nearly delayed on Tuesday, Aug. 12, when council member Bob Archibeque suggested the agenda item be tabled because council member Tom Butler was absent on official city business.

“The full council should decide,” Archibeque said. “To eliminate one of our soldiers is not the way to go.”

City leaders ultimately decided to proceed with the planned first reading of the ordinance in order to give the three dozen audience members in attendance an opportunity to express their opinions. No one voiced public opposition to the proposed law.

A 73-year-old retired nurse was one of four audience members to encourage council members to expand marijuana legalization, saying the plant was a “natural substance” that helped to ease her joint pain. She said she never had a patient suffering from marijuana related ailments, unlike the numerous patients she treated for alcohol and prescription medication abuse.

“I support marijuana,” the woman said to a round of applause.

Archibeque, the lone opponent to accepting the city ordinance, told The Cortez Journal after the meeting that he voted against the measure because he was uncertain of the community’s desires on allowing recreational marijuana in Cortez.

“I’ve received mixed feelings from residents,” he said.

Archibeque was the only council member to tour all the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries before Tuesday’s vote. He also visited marijuana businesses in Durango and Telluride, he said, because he wanted to make an informed decision.

“I wanted to go in with my eyes and mind wide open,” said Archibeque. “I wanted to examine all sides of the issue.”

A high school coach for the past four decades, Archibeque said his “top priority” was the potential impact of the city’s marijuana reforms on the city’s youths.

“Substance abuse can take a kid’s dreams away,” he said.

The proposal would allow adults 21 and older to buy retail marijuana from a licensed dealer. Archibeque said he was mindful that children could easily purchase marijuana off the black market.

“I’m concerned about the increased availability,” he said.

Nathaniel Fete, co-owner of the Beacon Wellness Group, told city leaders on Tuesday that local gangapreneurs work hard to comply with industry regulations. Fete added that his company spends a lot of time, energy and money to train employees how to avoid underage sales. Fete operates one of four medical marijuana dispensaries in Cortez,

“There’s a cloud over us as stoners and pot heads, but knowing a bunch of the owners out here; we do business right,” he said.

Council member Ty Keel made the motion to set a public hearing on the proposed ordinance, and council member Orly Lucero seconded. Mayor Karen Sheek said that the council’s decision on Tuesday was simply to set a public hearing on the proposed ordinance, adding that the law had yet to be ratified.

After the meeting, Fete said he was more surprised there were talks to table the agenda item on Tuesday rather than the outcome of the final vote.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We’re excited, and we’re still plodding along.”

tbaker@cortezjournal.com