House District 57 candidates, from left, Randy Baumgardner, Republican;  Mike Kien, Libertarian; and Steve Ivancie, Democrat, speak during Thursday night’s forum at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Photo by Matt Stensland

House District 57 candidates, from left, Randy Baumgardner, Republican; Mike Kien, Libertarian; and Steve Ivancie, Democrat, speak during Thursday night’s forum at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

House District 57 candidates discuss medical marijuana at Steamboat forum

Trio differs about medical marijuana, other issues


Election calendar

■ Monday

Early voting begins. Voters who didn’t request a mail-in ballot can cast a ballot at the Routt County Courthouse.

■ Tuesday

A candidate forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs is at 1 p.m. at The Steamboat Grand, featuring Routt County sheriff candidates and House District 57 candidates. Other candidates to be announced. Rotarians and their guests are welcome.

■ Oct. 26

Last day to request a mail-in ballot.

■ Oct. 29

Early voting ends.

■ Nov. 2

Election Day. Polling locations will be open across the county, according to precinct.

— If there are debates about medical marijuana at the state Capitol next year, the voice representing Routt County could say very different things depending on the outcome of the Nov. 2 election.

The three candidates for state House District 57 gave their opinions about the booming industry and the controversies surrounding it during a Thursday night forum at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. Incumbent Republican state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs, Steam­­boat Springs Democrat Steve Ivancie and Oak Creek Liber­­tarian Mike Kien were center stage for the second night in a row at the venue, where a crowd of about 70 gathered to hear from a variety of candidates just days before ballot-checking begins.

Baumgardner said Thursday that he initially was opposed to the idea of medical marijuana dispensaries but could agree with regulations that treat legal use of the drug like any other prescription medication — with doctor’s orders and pick-up at a pharmacy.

That’s similar in principle to what’s already under way in Colo­­rado, where dispensaries have sprung up like weeds in the past year.

Earlier this week, Baum­­gardner said municipalities should be able to choose how they handle the industry.

“As a state, we should recognize and consider the local control (by municipalities) of whether dispensaries go in or whether they don’t go in,” he said. “As far as the state mandating a blanket coverage for the state, I’m not comfortable with that … if we were to do that, a town that does not want to have medical marijuana dispensaries in their town would have no choice.”

The Hayden Town Council voted in August to ban medical marijuana businesses from the town.

Kien said Thursday that Hay­den officials may have “cut their own throat” from a revenue standpoint with that decision. He added that “the state has already taken too many steps” to regulate the industry — Colorado’s General Assembly voted this year to prohibit new medical marijuana businesses from opening until July 1, 2011 — and that “medical marijuana has to be more affordable.”

Ivancie said tighter regulations are needed on the distribution of medical marijuana eligibility cards. He also said the state has an “opportunity for revenue enhancement” through taxing and regulating the industry, and should consider production of the drug to ensure quality control.

“If it’s for medical use, where is the quality control and regulation?” Ivancie asked earlier this week. “I think the state has the obligation to regulate, to tax and consider quality controls … the same as any pharmaceutical.”

For more on the House District 57 race, look for a comprehensive candidate story in Sunday’s Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Other races

The Pilot & Today, Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, Routt County Democratic Party and Routt County Republican Party sponsored Thursday’s forum.

Garrett Wiggins, Republican candidate for Routt County sheriff, said he’s “come in under budget” every year as commander of the All Crimes Enforcement Team.

“I think I have a positive history, and I can’t say that about my opponent,” Wiggins said.

Sheriff Gary Wall wasn’t able to attend Thursday’s forum after being airlifted Wednesday night to a Denver-area hospital with what he said were complications from the flu.

Wiggins was asked about a Dec­­ember 2009 audit of ACET that identified several issues within the task force. He said those issues were resolved and have led to a better overall operation.

Also Thursday, state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, spoke against Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, measures on the ballot in November that significantly would reduce taxes and fees and limit governments’ ability to borrow. White called the measures akin to “trying to swat a fly with a sledgehammer” and said he didn’t know how the state would move forward with its budgets and services should they pass.

Forum organizers said they could not find someone at the state or local levels to speak in support of the three ballot measures.

Kevin Nerney, unaffiliated can­­­­­­­didate for Routt County coroner, spoke about his 20 years as firefighter and police officer in New York City, saying “you can’t buy that kind of experience.”

In response to a question from Pilot & Today editor Brent Boyer, who moderated the forum, Nerney said the city’s November 2007 revocation of the liquor license for his Pirate’s Pub and Jade Summit restaurant was “certainly not” relevant to his candidacy for coroner. Nerney reiterated that his decades of working with the public have given him the compassion necessary for the coroner job.

Chuck McConnell mentioned compassion when speaking for incumbent Coroner Rob Ryg, a Republican. Ryg could not attend Thursday because of family matters. McConnell said the seven-year coroner and former pastor at Euzoa Bible Church has intangible, empathetic qualities that Mc­­Connell saw firsthand in June 2008, when McConnell’s son died and Ryg was one of the first responders.

Lu Etta Loeber spoke for Demo­­cratic coroner candidate Darrel Levingston, also unable to attend Thursday because of family matters. Loeber cited Lev­ingston’s experience with Routt County Search and Rescue and his goals of broadening the coroner position to community outreach work for causes such as suicide prevention.

Incumbent Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a Democrat from Grand Junction, said during Thursday’s forum that his office significantly has cut expenses, cleaned up voter rolls and more in his 21 months on the job. McConnell, speaking for Republican challenger Scott Gessler, said Gessler would require first-time voters to show proof of citizenship when casting a ballot. Gessler also supports photo identification for voters.

“Show me voters who have voted illegally in this state,” Buescher said about the issue. “If there’s a problem, let’s deal with it — but I haven’t seen one.”

Buescher said “Colorado has very clean elections” and cited costs of as much as $5 million to implement a photo ID system, which he said didn’t make sense from a business standpoint.

Also attending Thursday’s event was Melissa Hart, the Demo­­cratic candidate for an at-large seat on the University of Colo­­rado Board of Regents. She supported a cap for tuition rates and alternative funding sources to ensure affordability for future generations. McConnell said her opponent, incumbent Republican Steve Bosley, is best qualified to handle “the most challenging budget crisis” in CU’s history.

After the event, Steamboat resident Dave Moloney said there’s “a lot at stake in this election” and expressed hope that Routt County’s representative at the Capitol next year would keep the area’s key economic driver in mind.

“For Steamboat right now, tourism is huge,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that’s one line item that doesn’t get cut.”


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