On Jan. 1, some of the existing “medical” marijuana centers will open as both medical and retail marijuana establishments in Eagle County. Before Oct. 1, our Eagle County commissioners will have an opportunity to either approve or disapprove new county licensing and zoning ordinances for these new establishments.
But what exactly are they approving in our neighborhoods per the new state rules for the Marijuana Enforcement Division? A medical and retail marijuana establishment by state definition means (1) a retail marijuana store, (2) a retail marijuana cultivation facility, (3) a retail marijuana products manufacturing facility, and (4) a retail marijuana testing facility.
Most of these independent businesses will be located in separate facilities per the new state laws and county zoning. So we will not only have new establishments after state and county licensing, but these other new businesses will also start appearing in other county- or town-approved and zoned locations.
The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report on the “Impact of Marijuana” in Colorado in August stated: “Colorado driving fatalities were up, youth use up, adult use up, ER admittances up, out of state interdictions up, and Postal Sevice shipments up.” See http://www.rmhidta.org for the full report.
Marijuana continues as a Schedule I substance under the Federal Controlled Substance Act and will be illegal at the federal government level until the cows come home. State laws do not trump federal law. Our county zoning marijuana ordinances are therefore all illegal under federal law, no matter what our county attorney says.
These new establishments, under the new proposed county zoning, will be prohibited from locating within 200 feet from our schools, residences or parks. Now that took dedicated staff work in helping out these new businesses, but what about the residents?
With the new laws, every foreign guest with a passport or out of state tourist with an ID will be able to buy 1/4 ounce of marijuana every day from every marijuana establishment in Eagle County. Only the county sheriff will have enforcement actions if they have the time and manpower.
Of course, the new “open container” marijuana state law may be keeping all law enforcement busy. Our county government does not have a marijuana inspection division and leaves that task up to the state Department of Revenue out of Grand Junction. The recent July “Marijuana Audit Report for Denver City and County Government” has actually lost track of 63 of the 739 medical marijuana centers. That should be a caution to the residents in Eagle County.
One estimate says the state of Colorado could generate as much as $91 million a year from sales taxes on marijuana the first year, though official estimates from the Legislature put the revenue at $60 million. Meanwhile, legislative analysts project it would cost less than $15 million to regulate the industry.
Those are the reported facts. However, do the residents of Eagle County really want more marijuna establishments and the additional marijuana businesses opening in our family ski resort environment? We approved “medical marijuana” several years ago, and those needing their medicine are now being supplied by a small controllable number of businesses.
In November, there will be a new Colorado ballot issue that will ask us to approve a new 30 percent retail and excise tax on retail marijuana — 15 percent on the retail seller and 15 percent on the facility grower to pay for the $15 million new Colorado Department of Revenue staff that will run this program. The first $40 million of revenue will go to school construction projects.
Now isn’t that a twist, using potential illegal drug tax money to fund our schools?
Soon our county commissioners will vote to approve or disapprove these new marijuana businesses.
I would ask residents to write emails, letters, faxes, public appearances at Board of Commissioners meetings to convince our commissioners to vote to ban marijuana establishments in unincorporated Eagle County. Contact the commissioners at: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 970-328-8629.
I would also suggest all voters to say “no” to the 30 percent tax on retail marijuana.
Without the cash, our state government can not support any recreational marijuana establishments. No money, no new marijuana businesses.
If no action is taken by the voters in Eagle County, then expect these new marijuana facilities to be opening in your neighborhoods!