Retail marijuana fails again before Craig City Council
For the second time in 2017, an ordinance that would have put retail marijuana on the ballot failed to clear Craig City Council.
The ordinance, which would have referred a question on whether to allow retail marijuana sales, cultivation, manufacturing and testing in Craig, was dead on arrival at its first reading Tuesday night, with not a single motion made to bring it to a vote.
“I appreciate you bringing this forward, but the problem is, and as you acknowledged at the last meeting, you brought it forward late,” Mayor John Ponikvar told Committee to Grow Craig organizers Paul James and Shaun Hadley. “We understand here within city council that marijuana is a controversial issue anyway, and it deserves a community discussion.”
James came before council Aug. 8 to discuss the recreational marijuana ballot question. Ponikvar said then that with only one regular council meeting left before the Sept. 8 deadline to certify ballot language, council would have to call a special meeting to complete both the first and second readings of the ordinance, but agreed to move forward with the process.
James said they came before council the same time last year and didn’t know the timeline was any different this year.
Council has revisited the issue three times after Grow Craig failed to collect enough signatures in 2016; the ordinance lost to a tie vote upon second reading in January. Hadley and James promised then that they would return later this year with enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot themselves.
Efforts to do so apparently became stalled, however, through possible lack of organization or miscommunication. After helping to elect council members he believed would support the measure, James was counting on council to move forward with the referral; however, council seemed to be expecting Grow Craig members to take the lead.
“With this council, I think we have a majority that would support the right to vote on the issue, but at this point, with the timeline they put us under, that didn’t work,” Ponikvar said, noting they showed a “lack of urgency.”
James expressed upset Tuesday evening with the turn of events.
“I don’t know how they expect to raise taxes on people without doing anything to increase revenue or jobs,” James said. “We thought we had elected these people that were just going to refer the measure to the ballot.”
Council approved on second reading Tuesday a ballot measure that will ask voters for a 1.75-percent sales tax increase in November to help close a growing budget deficit.
Grow Craig members supported Ponikvar and Councilman Jarrod Ogden in their April election campaigns after they supported the retail marijuana ordinance in January alongside Councilman Derek Duran, James said. Councilmen Tony Bohrer and Joe Bird voted against it, and council members Andrea Camp and Chris Nichols were newly elected in April.
Ponikvar said in a phone interview that councilmembers, himself included, had been contacted by numerous people who were concerned about the issue being fast-tracked through council, and he expressed concern about setting a precedent for other last-minute issues by scheduling a special meeting.
“From what I can tell, nobody had really lifted much of a finger to do their due diligence and try to get it done through the process presented,” Ogden said.
Were recreational marijuana to be allowed in Craig, it would raise approximately $160,000 in tax revenues, according to the city’s estimates presented in the ballot language.
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.