Editorial: Marijuana ordinance should benefit Craig community
It has been almost seven years since Colorado passed Amendment 64 to the state’s Constitution legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Once Colorado’s Amendment 64 passed, cities and counties across the state jumped at the chance to bolster their coffers with pot money. They wrote their own marijuana ordinances, established their own local bureaucratic controls and taxes on recreational marijuana. They funded their schools, their roads, and their recreation centers.
But not Craig or Moffat County.
It didn’t take the state long to begin funding peer-reviewed research to better understand marijuana’s effects — doling out some $9 million for research in 2015. Much of that research is ongoing — researching treatments for stubborn post-traumatic stress disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more. Much research has already been completed on the many medical benefits of cannabis.
Colorado’s State Patrol has done its own research. CSP says their DUI cases overall were down 15% from 2014 to 2017 while the percentage of CSP citations with marijuana-only impairment has stayed steady, at around 7%. The percentage of CSP citations with any marijuana nexus rose from 12% in 2012 to 17% in 2016, then dropped to 15% in 2017, according to CSP. State Patrol says 10% of people in treatment for a DUI self-reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, compared to 86% who report alcohol as their primary drug of abuse. This and other research shows us the legalization of marijuana has had minimal impacts on the overall well-being of our population.
For years, residents here have watched as surrounding cities and counties have reaped the financial rewards of legalized marijuana. Who knows how much money this community would have gained had it been on the forefront of Colorado’s legalized marijuana-related businesses? It’s safe to say we’ve lost many millions due to resident’s apprehension toward what has historically been an illegal substance.
But now voters in Craig seem to be tired of seeing their neighbors awash in marijuana money while Craig and Moffat County can’t — or won’t — keep their libraries or a world-class museum open.
Voters chose Paul James for city council, whose candidacy was rooted in bringing recreational marijuana to Craig. At Tuesday’s council meeting this week, council voted to give City Attorney Sherman Romney permission to begin the process of writing Craig’s new marijuana ordinance. The city is planning to use the workshop process to ensure community input toward the new ordinance before it’s put on the November ballot for voters to decide once and for all whether they want to sell a valuable commodity in this state.
The new ordinance might even contain extra taxes across multiple sales and manufacturing avenues that will be used to fund our libraries and our museum.
There’s also talk of using the taxes from marijuana sales to help fund a new recreation center in Craig.
We shouldn’t pretend folks aren’t already using marijuana legally in Craig on a regular basis. It is likely many residents are already buying marijuana legally, just not in Craig. The potential for recreational marijuana in Craig brings with it money, and that money should be put to good use. As the city writes its ordinance and prepares to put the question on the ballot, we support decisions to fund education and health through marijuana taxation to offset whatever effects may come from more marijuana in our community. More money toward education and health is a good thing and we should support the city and county’s efforts in these areas.
But we should also watch our elected officials with a keen eye when or if recreational marijuana is legalized in Craig. We are against giving our elected officials a blank check without earmarking every dollar’s worth gained from recreational marijuana. That money should be accounted for and spent according to voters’ wishes, not quietly dripped into the general fund where it can be used for anything our elected officials want.
We also encourage the community to get involved in the city’s workshop process in the coming months. City officials have until August to solidify an ordinance before they plan to put that ordinance on the November ballot for voters to decide. If you’re for or against recreational marijuana legalization in Craig, your perspective matters and you have real power to guide public policy as long as you participate in the city’s workshop process.
As for Craig City Council, we would encourage them to work closely with the city attorney, who was keen to advise council Tuesday night it would be in Craig’s best interest to draft its own marijuana ordinance before any marijuana-related businesses in Colorado do. It will be important to make sure any loopholes or liabilities in our ordinance are closed and the law’s language airtight. Though an outside attorney may not be needed due to city and county attorneys across the state having already done the work for us, we think it prudent for council to consider consulting an affordable outside attorney with experience in municipal marijuana policy and no ties to special marijuana interests. Our ordinance should incentivize Craig or Moffat County residents interested in starting and keeping their own small marijuana-related business headquarters here.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, officials should use the workshop process to listen to constituents that they may write our new recreational marijuana ordinance in a way that protects Craig and its rural culture from outside marijuana-related business interests, funds initiatives important to the community, and benefits residents and their quality of life.
Editor’s note: Renee Campbell was unable to attend this week’s editorial board meeting.