Last push for recreational marijuana initiative burns up, won’t be on Craig’s April ballot
January 23, 2019
CRAIG — Craig City Council members took no action Tuesday, Jan. 22, on a proposed ordinance that would have legalized recreational marijuana dispensaries within the city limits of Craig.
Paul James, an employee of Craig Apothecary, requested an item be placed on the council's agenda that would have made his proposed recreational marijuana ordinance law, had council members voted in favor of it.
The agenda item was placed less than a week after James' Committee to Grow Craig and its recreational marijuana legalization petition failed to gather enough qualified signatures to place the question of recreational marijuana dispensaries before voters in the April 2 municipal election.
The ordinance connected to the ballot initiative would have provided for no more than three retail marijuana dispensaries inside Craig to have one cultivation license. Each establishment would have been allowed to have no more than two cultivation licenses per person without a locally held license for a recreational dispensary.
The ordinance would also have capped the number of cannabis manufacturing licenses to four per person. Cannabis manufacturing licenses cover the production of edibles, tinctures, concentrates, and topical lotions.
While the council was generally amenable to placing the question before voters April 2, some had concerns about the language of the ordinance.
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Mayor John Ponikvar bluntly brandished one of James' social media posts, wherein James said he would no longer ask City Council to place the question before voters.
"What's changed?" Ponikvar asked.
"We've really not been doing well," James answered, referencing the Craig Apothecary's troubled financial status.
Though he, himself, personally signed James' petition, Ponikvar also questioned whether those who signed the petition were correctly educated about James' ordinance — an ordinance Ponikvar said could be tainted with self-interest.
"This is really self-serving," Craig's mayor said. "This is all about Paul James."
Councilwoman Andrea Camp eventually turned to City Attorney Sherman Romney for options were council to vote on putting the ordinance on the April 2 ballot. Romney pointed to several actions council would need to take before its Feb. 12 meeting — including at least two special council meetings and the publication of public hearings letting voters know when they can have their say.
Romney said James' ordinance, as written, isn't blatantly unconstitutional, but added it isn't as detailed as he would like. Romney said he could amend James' ordinance appropriately before placing it on the April 2 ballot.
"It is possible if you're willing to commit to two special council meetings,” Romney said.
He added a special election could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000.
Many spoke Tuesday in support of allowing voters to decide by placing a recreational marijuana ordinance on the ballot. Among them was veteran Scott McDaniel, who said that after a combat tour left him with PTSD and several severe injuries, he moved to Moffat County so he could live a conservative lifestyle with legal marijuana.
He said legal marijuana helped him stay away from opiates and other hard prescription drugs given him by the Veterans Affairs Administration. McDaniel demanded City Council vote to put the recreational marijuana ordinance on the ballot without forcing another petition drive.
“As a veteran, I look to you,” McDaniel said. “Just put it on the ballot. Screw the signatures.”
Despite McDaniel and several other residents speaking in support of the ordinance, no one on the council moved for the ordinance to be placed on the ballot.
Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.