Embrace Rocky Mountain high

Paul Rondeau

I probably am in the minority of those who read the full text of amendment 64 and the pro-con statements and considered long-term issues before voting. I never have consumed marijuana and I’m not an investor in the new industry.

My thoughts:

Big picture: Nobody in the panel of former and current mayors at Vail’s State of the Town meeting mentioned impacts of recreational marijuana when describing Vail’s future. This given that the governor has said we are into uncharted territory that will bring great change.

Get with the program: The operative word for marijuana is really cannabis and the substance giving the high is THC.

Areas of focus: The amendment talked about retail sales, production (growing) and assembly, testing and distribution. To this list you must add smoking clubs and places for consumption. Hotels are just starting to think about the impacts of smoking the product in rooms and halls.

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It’s in the brownies: Most think of smoking, but consider that the product is also sold in foodstuffs.

Transition: The proponents of the amendment made the analogy that going down to your local marijuana shop will be like going down to your local liquor shop. Perhaps, but did they really understand the growing pains after Prohibition was repealed in 1933?

Big bucks: If cannabis-related commercial space (including retail) is up for grabs to the highest bidder, there is so much money involved, they will outbid just about anybody else. For perspective, consider a group of investors trying to purchase a metal building in Westcliffe for growing cannabis. The newish building was constructed for a metal fabrication shop that went out of business. The sticking point is not price, but whether the town will allow it. Note that cannabis grown at higher altitudes (Westcliffe is at 7,900 feet) has a higher THC content. Further, the predictions are a major inequality between a limited supply and a great demand.

Location: If Vail is to allow retail recreation marijuana, where to zone it? If it’s just like a liquor store, is it by default West Vail? But if the council wants to ensure vibrancy and no empty storefronts, why not allow the new retailers to lease higher price-per-square-foot locations in town?

Building walls: Not allowing retail cannabis in Vail will not dampen consumption. It certainly will increase demand for taxi service and rental cars to go downvalley.

Lemons into lemonade: Instead of fearing the cannabis revolution, perhaps Vail should embrace it with panache? We could start by allowing only medical marijuana as part of the health and wellness theme!

But someone has to be first, so it’s Colorado and Washington state. And Vail was noted for its pioneering spirit.

Perhaps: “Nothing like it on Earth and doubly high in the Colorado Rockies.”

Paul Rondeau is a Vail resident.

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