Town board contemplates marijuana ballot question in 2020

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Town trustees grappled with a possible ballot item concerning marijuana in their February 6 meeting.

The possible ballot item would ask residents whether or not to lift regulations prohibiting the sales and cultivation of marijuana within Kremmling. Only residents living in town limits would be able to vote on the issue.

Interim Town Manager Rhonda Shearer explained the ballot question could be referred by the Town or be initiated by a citizen.

She recommended the Town sponsor the referred measure to be able to mold and shape the future of the marijuana industry in Kremmling if residents were in favor of it. The Town could determine additional taxes for retail sales, application fees and regulations. If a citizen brought the initiative forward, the Town would only be able to tax marijuana sales at the current rate of 4%, and the Town would have no control on how the initiative would be written. (Although, the Town could propose application fees.)

Interestingly, a citizen can propose a ballot initiative at any time, and they do not need to be a Kremmling resident. The citizen would need to collect signatures from 5% of the number of town residents who voted in the last town election. In April 2018, there were a total of 393 ballots counted and 411 total ballots returned. This translates to approximately 20 signatures of registered voters who live in town limits.

Shearer’s suggestion was to place it on the ballot during the regular 2020 election in April as a referred measure. The 2020 election could be a mail-in ballot. If the initiative was presented by a citizen, it could be a special election and the timing of the election would depend on when the completed paperwork was filed. In either scenario, the Town would pay the costs for the election.

Shearer explained, “I feel it is in the Town’s best interest to be proactive and to show intent to put it on the ballot so that we can write it the way we want it.” She noted, however, the Town proceeding with their ballot measure did not prevent a citizen from initiating their own ballot measure at any time.

In January, Mark Wellstone, of Blue Heron Dispensary in Oak Creek, requested the Town lift the ban on retail marijuana dispensaries.
He commented at the February 6 meeting, “April of 2020 may not be ideal – it is obviously quite a ways out there – but I don’t want to take an adversarial approach with the Town or the board. I want to do it in unison.”

Wellstone addressed voter input, “There is a lot of people in this community who are not necessarily willing to step up and talk about their desire for it [retail marijuana]… that is why I agree what makes the most sense is to let the people have their say.” He hopes to be able to proceed with his plan to open a shop in Kremmling, but he understands if residents oppose marijuana sales he will have to acquiesce.

Wellstone estimates his sales produced $30,000-$40,000 in tax revenue in Oak Creek with a municipal sales tax of 3%. “Oak Creek is a really small, non-trafficked area. I am probably one of the smallest dispensaries in the state.” He envisioned Kremmling’s dispensary would have more traffic and more retail business than Oak Creek’s dispensary. “It would do three times what Oak Creek does very easily,” he predicted.

If voters decide to lift the ban on marijuana in April of 2020, it would still take time for retail dispensary shops, and possibly grow operations, to set-up business.

Woog summarized, “There are still a lot of steps involved in getting there. There’s zoning regulations that are going to need to be considered: where they can be … how many dispensaries would be allowed. These are all things to be governed by this board and ultimately planning and zoning. The question is really rather or not to lift a moratorium that was put into place a decade or so.”

Planning and zoning would recommend zoning regulations, location limitations, and how many businesses to allow.

The Board consented to move forward with a ballot measure and suggested more research be done by the new Town Manager Dan Stoltman who will begin his duties in April. Police Chief Jamie Lucas also agreed to visit with Oak Creek’s police department and research potential problems inherent to the marijuana business.
“It has been a great discussion and has certainly opened our eyes to the need to proceed,” said Woog of the ballot initiative, “the fairest thing is let our constituents decide what they want.”


Kremmling area split for legalization of marijuana in 2012

In 2012, Amendment 64 made marijuana legal in Colorado. In Grand County, a total of 4,738 voters supported the legalization of marijuana and 3,306 were against. When the numbers are broke down for the Kremmling precincts, the numbers edge more closely together. In Precinct 4 which is properties north of Highway 40 and includes Blue Valley acres and other subdivisions in the area, voters were opposed to the legalization of marijuana 258-245. On the opposite side of the highway, in Precinct 5 which includes Troublesome Valley and subdivisions, voters supported the legalization of marijuana 385-367. If you combine the two Kremmling area precincts, the numbers provide a narrow margin of support for the legalization of marijuana 630-625. The numbers were nearly split down the middle with only five votes leading in favor of legalization.

Today, Grand County does have licensed marijuana businesses in unincorporated Grand County, which includes Tabernash. According to Grand County Clerk and Recorder, Sara Rosene there are currently two licensed grows (one medical and one retail); four licensed infused product manufacturers (two medical and two retail); and four licensed dispensaries (three retail and one medical).

Of the towns in Grand County, most have not embraced the marijuana industry. Fraser is the only municipality that has allowed retail dispensaries. They currently have two.

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