Our View: If they grow it, why not sell it? | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: If they grow it, why not sell it?

We were impressed this week with the efforts taken by Oak Creek town officials to educate and reassure residents about plans to develop two marijuana grow centers in that South Routt County community and to explain the economic growth that could result.

On June 25, the town hosted a panel discussion attended by a representative of one of the two companies planning to operate the growing facilities, as well as officials from Breckenridge, a community that has embraced legalized marijuana. The meeting was a great tool for getting correct information out to the public and educating the community about new businesses coming to town and what that could mean for the local economy long-term.

Park Range Recreationals wants to use the rear portion of a storefront on Main Street in Oak Creek to house a growing operation, and CCC Management plans to add a second story to a former kayak factory to create at 16,000-square-foot grow operation. It's safe to speculate that some of the pot grown in Oak Creek will be destined for Breckenridge and Summit County.

Brian Rogers, who helped to open Breckenridge Cannabis Club in January, represented CCC on the panel discussion. And Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen also attended.

Gagen got our attention when he told the Oak Creek gathering that the increased availability of legal marijuana seems to "mellow out the drunken party crowd," in that ski town. He went as far as saying there is less violence associated with marijuana use than with alcohol use.

Gagen also mentioned that Breckenridge has exercised its authority to add  an additional 5 percent tax on retail marijuana on top of regular city sales tax.

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But the real message of the night was that Rogers expects his grow operation in Oak Creek to employ 40 people, with the top worker earning six figures.

That's great economic development, and already some CCC employees have purchased homes in South Routt, according to Rogers. Their salaries will turn over in the local economy at restaurants, shops and the grocery store. Ironically, some of that payroll will make its way to Steamboat Springs, where there are more retail businesses to choose from.

Wouldn't Oak Creek stand to gain more from its growing pot industry if it encouraged a recreational marijuana store and collected sales tax on some of its harvest? The town might consider allowing one of the two new businesses or its existing medical marijuana dispensary to add a retail outlet. That would allow them to collect 3 percent sales tax, or more, on some of the pot the new businesses will otherwise export.

The locals know better than we do. Perhaps everyone in Oak Creek who wants to smoke or consume edibles already has a medical pot card. But there's a big tourism destination right next door.

A spokesman from Colorado Parks and Wildlife pointed out to us this week that it's not legal to smoke marijuana in public, and Stagecoach Lake State Park is a public place. We respect that, and don't support smoking marijuana around the campfire in a state park campground where neighbors live close to one another. But we think that a portion of the annual visitors to Stagecoach would find a way to discretely consume marijuana and add to the Oak Creek town coffers in the process.

A fiscal analysis produced by CPW shows that Stagecoach saw 149,500 visitors in 2010, and 40 percent ($118,000) of its annual revenues was attributable to its 89 campsites.

Breckenridge wisely uses sales tax receipts from recreational marijuana sales to fund  Marijuana Enforcement Officer Brady Allen, who took part in last week's panel discussion.

Oak Creek could do something similar if it chose to.

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