Maybell resident Kris Brannan wants to grow and sell recreational marijuana. Her first hurdle for getting into the highly regulated industry is getting Moffat County on board.
She brought a petition with about 450 signatures to the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday night as part of an effort to compel them to repeal their ban on the growth and sales of retail pot.
Even though Colorado voted to legalize recreational weed with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, counties and municipalities still have the right under state law to keep the retail side illegal.
In February 2013, Moffat County passed a yearlong moratorium on recreational marijuana sales. Craig City Council did the same in August, unanimously passing its own ban.
Moffat County and Craig may have said “no” to retail pot, but they cannot extend such restrictions to personal use. Residents still legally can grow their own plants and use cannabinoids for recreation.
Brannan wants the county to lift the ban so she can start a business, Nisbeth Gardens, which would have grow operations and a retail shop. Her success could mean tax dollars for the county, she said.
“I’d rather do retail and bring money into the county and get Maybell back on the map,” Brannan said.
It could be a boost to an economy that’s hurting, she added. “We’re running out of places for people to work,” she said.
Nick Brait, CEO of the Greene Consulting Group, attended the Wednesday workshop with Brannan to provide information and make a case for the commissioners to change their minds about the county ban.
“We’ve seen a lot of how the regulatory structure in Colorado is conducive to economic opportunity,” he said.
The existing licensing, application and tax structure that Amendment 64 built around the marijuana industry would bring in substantial revenue to counties who opted into retail sales within their limits, Brait said.
Fifteen percent of the special retail pot state sales tax — which is 10 percent on the purchase — goes back to participating counties. Pueblo County, with two retail shops, brought in $56,000 in tax revenue just in January from the shops, he said.
“You can see the affect that sort of thing can have in a county,” Brait said.
But counties and municipalities can manage their own tax system regarding marijuana with no caps. Counties and cities can do the same with application and licensing fees: charge as much as they want.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers cut past the money talk.
“You make me feel like a whore that we’d just approve this for the dollars,” he said.
Brait compared the issue to alcohol.
“We use alcohol because we enjoy it, but the state allows it because of the revenue,” he said.
But Mathers wasn’t the only person in the meeting to express dissenting concerns.
Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid pressed for studies that would show whether legalizing recreational pot had an affect on high school student performance.
“What about the social costs?” he said.
Brait argued that making weed legal could have a positive social affect.
The commissioners said they would be waiting until after the primary election to go over the petition. Then they will decide whether to repeal their ban, put the issue on the November ballot or let the ban stand, said Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe.
Grobe said the meeting had been useful.
“It was informative,” he said.
Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.