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Orchard City committee recommends ballot question, repeal of marijuana business ban

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The Orchard City Town Board on July 12 will discuss, and possibly act on, a trustee committee report that lays out a road map for the eventuality of voter approval for marijuana businesses in town, including repeal of the town's current bans.

The first recommendation board's cannabis revenue committee is that "the town should start the process of repealing the ordinances of 2011 and 2013 prohibiting any type of licensed marijuana business."

The report then recommends that in place of the ordinances, a temporary moratorium on marijuana business licensing be adopted effective through May 15, 2018 -- six weeks following the next municipal election. The report also proposes a referendum on the issue at the 2018 municipal election.

During last week's trustee workshop when a nearly completed draft of the committee's recommendations was presented, trustee Craig Fuller objected to repeal of the town's current ordinances banning marijuana businesses. He said that any repeal should wait until results of any proposed April 2018 referendum vote are in, 10 months from now.

Trustee Tom Huerkamp, who along with Trustee Gynee Thomassen comprise the town's cannabis revenue committee, replied the immediate repeal recommendation was needed because of the length of time required to repeal ordinances. According to information provided by Orchard City staff and the Colorado Municipal League, adoption of a repeal ordinance could involve the following steps:

• The ordinance is drafted and placed on a meeting agenda;

• The ordinance is introduced and read at the meeting. A second reading, public hearing, and town board action are scheduled for the following month;

• If adopted on second reading, the repeal ordinance would become effective 30 days after legal publication.

The committee's five-page report and recommendations on marijuana businesses includes supporting comments and lays out a road map for administrative and political preparations leading up to a proposed April 2018 referendum. For example, the report recommends that by this year's end the town board should "develop and publicize information on what licensing they would approve along with restrictions and fees the town would enforce above and beyond those required by the state." The report also recommends town-sponsored open house events for public information.

The report carries a caveat that "the committee is not rendering opinion or judgment regarding allowing any type of cannabis licenses that should be allowed or disallowed in Orchard City."

The draft report makes additional recommendations along with proposed scenarios for events over the next 10 months and beyond. For example, the report recommends that the town begin to make preparations for licensing marijuana businesses in advance of an April 2018 referendum. Those preparations would include developing local regulations, licensing fees, and tax rates. The report notes discussions with the Delta County Sheriff and with officials of other municipalities and the state.

The report recommends that commercial cultivation be restricted to indoor facilities and located in low traffic areas of the town. The report offers information about the marijuana industry along with some Colorado requirements including notes on state fees for licenses and renewals that are publicly available.

The report recommends that the cannabis revenue committee should continue its work beyond its original scope by looking into more kinds of marijuana businesses than just commercial growing. The committee wants to expand its research into five other marijuana business licenses allowed by the state. Those would be the following:

• Retail marijuana sales business;

• Marijuana products manufacturing;

• Marijuana product testing;

• Marijuana and marijuana products transport;

• And licensing for a classification called "marijuana operator," according to the report.

The report also looks beyond previous discussions of the need for town government revenue from marijuana business in order to maintain town roads. The report suggests that money raised from licensing and taxing commercial marijuana businesses be placed in a specific town enterprise fund dedicated to "Public Health and Safety to include road maintenance and construction."

The report recommends that any money the town would derive from licensing and taxation of marijuana businesses be exempt from Colorado's TABOR Amendment (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights). TABOR basically sets limits to the growth of town government by limiting spending increases to the inflation rate and actual town population increases.

The draft report was made available to the public at trustees' July 5 workshop meeting.

The trustees' July 12 regular business meeting begins at 7 p.m. at town hall.

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