Moffat County marijuana policies clarified | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County marijuana policies clarified

Janelle O'Dea

After the marijuana referendum didn't pass on Moffat County's ballot Nov. 4, many area residents were left wondering if it is legal to grow any marijuana in Moffat County.

The referendum wouldn't have necessarily legalized commercial grow operations. Instead, it served as a public opinion poll for Moffat County commissioners and measured the temperature of opinion on allowing commercial grows in Moffat County.

In the November 2012 election, Amendment 64 passed to change the Colorado constitution and allow retail marijuana sales to anyone age 21 or older.

Moffat County and the city of Craig wrote ordinances to exempt themselves from parts of Amendment 64.

Per Colorado law, adult residents are allowed to grow as many as six marijuana plants. No more than 12 plants are allowed per residence, no matter how many adults live there.

The only exception is in the form of a doctor's note for a medical patient that authorizes the growth of more plants.

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The plants, regardless of the number and whether they are kept inside or outside, must be in an enclosed and locked area.

Craig City Attorney Sherman Romney explains how language of the law allowed for Moffat County, the city of Craig and other municipalities to make their own rulings on marijuana.

"When the voters passed Amendment 64, the wording of the amendment itself allowed each local government, including cities and counties, to 'opt out' of the law," Romney said.

The ordinances are not laws that will be enforced. If a Moffat County resident tried to operate a commercial grow and was caught by the police, state laws would take over.

"If charges were ever brought, it would be for the illegal production or possession of illicit drugs as stated in Title 18," Romney said.

Romney also said municipalities can choose specifically what marijuana activities to allow. The city of Craig, for example, allows the Craig Apothecary to operate a medical marijuana business in Craig.

Both the county and city, however, choose not to allow marijuana cultivation facilities (in the form of commercial growing operations), marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities or retail marijuana stores.

Moffat County's referred measure on the November 2014 ballot asked residents about reversing part of Moffat County's ordinance and allowing people to embark on commercial growing operations.

Unfortunately, for residents such as Maybell resident Kris Brannan, the public didn't put its weight behind changing Moffat County's marijuana ordinance, more or less guaranteeing that commissioners wouldn't support it, either.

Brannan said in an interview earlier this month that she could have made $2,600 per pound of marijuana compared to 10 cents per pound of hay, if commercial grows were allowed in Moffat County.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the marijuana laws are difficult to enforce.

"The state law allows you to grow a certain number of plants," Vanatta said. "And quite frankly, the law is so convoluted, it's really difficult to enforce."

For example, caregivers can grow for as many as three patients and if a doctor authorizes a patient to grow more plants for medical need, the grows can "get, very quickly, large," Vanatta said.

He also said his main concern with marijuana comes down to youths possessing and using it rather than persons age 21 or over.

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday