Craig City Council narrowly passes marijuana resolution
After a split 4-3 vote Tuesday night, Craig City Council passed a resolution establishing the official framework for its new marijuana ordinance.
The ordinance, if passed by voters in the upcoming November election, would add a 4% sales tax on the sale of recreational marijuana and would allow some dispensaries and other marijuana-related testing facilities, growing operations, and other businesses to set up shop in Craig’s empty commercial facilities, including those downtown.
But during and after a public hearing Tuesday, not everyone was ready to vote for recreational marijuana in Craig.
“I expect they will tell me I need to get educated on the subject,” said Craig resident Denise Williams. “Well, I have done just that.”
Williams relayed her personal story of losing a grandson to what she said was marijuana-induced psychosis after she conducted her own research online regarding the side-effects of marijuana on young, developing minds.
“It opened my eyes,” Williams said. “I was correct to think it was causing my grandson to be psychotic.”
Larry Fletcher came to the podium Tuesday night and also expressed his concern about legalizing recreational marijuana in Craig.
“Surely council did not intend to imply that sales to minors would be considered a light infraction,” Fletcher said of some on council who thought a single sale to an underage person should not be grounds for revoking a recreational license. “Surely council realizes minor teens need vigilant protection.”
Fletcher said Craig’s youth are valuable contributors to society.
“Our young people are our community’s most valuable asset,” Fletcher said.
After the public hearing, Councilman Chris Nichols moved to delete enforcement language included under state law so that council has the discretion to revoke a dispensary’s license if they sell to a single underage person.
Councilor Andrea Camp seconded but asked City Attorney Sherman Romney if they could change their mind later.
“This is your best effort to put that ordinance together ahead of time,” Romney said. “…but the ordinance does not bind the council to anything.”
Mayor Jarrod Ogden tried to put things into perspective.
“So, basically a set of established guidelines?” Ogden asked.
“Right,” Sherman said of the recreational marijuana resolution. “…this is your statement as to what you think that (ordinance) will look like.”
Shaun Hadley of Craig Apothecary addressed council Tuesday night. Hadley expressed concern Colorado’s largest marijuana operations are already taking up premier business spaces in town in anticipation of voters possibly passing the recreational marijuana ordinance in November.
Hadley does not want to be pushed out of his place to snag one of only three recreational marijuana dispensary licenses made available by council.
“Since this cat has clearly left the bag and businesses are already investing in the possibility of recreational cannabis sales, I believe the most fair way to handle this is to add wordage that gives first preference to medical in the order of the time it was established as a medical store in Craig,” Hadley said. “In simple terms, this would give me the first license, and the new medical dispensary the second, should they be approved, leaving room for one more. I’d also like to ask the first preference period last for one year, so that we can have time to find an appropriate location for our new venture.”
Former Craig Apothecary employee-turned Councilman Paul James agreed with Hadley.
“I think we already have two applications in,” James said of at least two marijuana companies having already, potentially positioned themselves behind Hadley.
The city’s current ordinance and its resolution brought before council Tuesday does not have such language protecting Hadley or small marijuana operators like Craig Apothecary.
When it came time for a vote, James joined councillors Brian MacKenzie and Tony Bohrer in voting against the marijuana resolution.
“I’m not for protectionist economic policies, but someone doing that for this long deserves a fair shake at it,” James said Wednesday. “…I think it should be as fair as possible. If we do it in the order they established their medical marijuana license, that would be good.”
MacKenzie noted Wednesday that he voted against the marijuana resolution because it lacked protections for prospective small marijuana businesses in Craig.
“I want small businesses like his,” MacKenzie said of Hadley’s Apothecary. “…City Council should work together to find ways to protect our small business owners.”
Allowing the Apothecary a license is about all the small business protection James is willing to do. James said he won’t support any changes in the tax structure giving preferential tax treatment to smaller marijuana businesses located in Craig.
“There’s no way I could support that,” James said Wednesday. “The reasoning is at this point, this is a real industry in this state. Cannabis is now a commodity. Setting that precedent is like saying because we have small restaurants, we should tax large corporate restaurants in the area.”
James added he wants to keep taxes low so marijuana companies will spend more on local wages. He believes the marijuana industry would cut jobs in Craig if the city raises their taxes.
“It’s almost guaranteed those corporations would cut jobs to save revenue,” James said.