Craig City Council to discuss retail marijuana ballot measure Jan. 10

Lauren Blair
Craig City Council will debate an ordinance Tuesday that would give Craig voters the chance to approve the establishment of retail marijuana in the April election. Council members are divided on the issue and expect a healthy dose of public input and discussion Tuesday.

— On Jan. 10, Craig City Council will vote on the first draft of a ballot measure asking voters whether or not to allow recreational marijuana in the City of Craig, and council members are expecting some healthy debate over the issue.

The council voted 4 to 3 at their last meeting Dec. 13 to draft the ordinance referring the question to voters in the April election, following a request from members of the Committee to Grow Craig, a local marijuana advocacy group.

Though the ballot and ordinance language is still being edited and refined before next week’s meeting, the current draft simply asks whether voters would permit “retail marijuana stores, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities and marijuana testing facilities” in the city of Craig.

Council members are divided on the matter.

“I, personally, am not for it,” said Councilmember Kent Nielson. “I’m very aware of the negative consequences that I’ve seen in my personal life with family members that marijuana can cause, so personally, morally, I’m not for it.”

The request to refer the question to voters came after Committee to Grow Craig members failed to gather enough signatures this summer to add the question to the ballot themselves. Member Paul James explained that many Craig residents told him they’d support the measure but wouldn’t sign the petition out of concern for their reputations.

Councilmember John Ponikvar hopes Tuesday’s meeting will turn out some healthy public debate.

“I really encourage the public to come out and have a say… I look at this not as a question about marijuana but as a question of the right to vote,” Ponikvar said. “I think the community needs to have some discussion about this, I think they need to be allowed to have that discussion.”

However, Nielson believes the public has already said its piece.

“We talked about people wanting to voice their opinions but in my mind, the people of the city already voiced their opinions when (the committee) couldn’t get enough signatures to get it on the ballot,” Nielson said.

Should the council approve the ordinance next week and again upon second reading Jan. 24, it would be the first time the City of Craig has had the opportunity to vote on recreational marijuana. Craig City Council passed a resolution in 2013 opting out of recreational marijuana after it was legalized on the state level.

Craig Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta said he upholds the people’s right to choose, but he is skeptical of the supposed tax benefits to the city of approving recreational marijuana.

“I don’t know that it will generate enough revenue to offset the cost of increased enforcement and the social costs,” Vanatta said. “The way the taxes are set up, the way they’re collected and where they go to does not necessarily help the entities that are impacted most.”

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.

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