Editor's note: With a majority of Orchard City trustees expressing interest in marijuana business as a way of raising town government revenue, and with a majority of town residents likely opposed to the idea, thanks to Orchard City resident Matt Soper for compiling a history of the marijuana issue in Orchard City and Delta County. (Sources and references are available.)
Historic timeline of marijuana and
• Year 2000, Amendment 20, Medical Marijuana: Colorado's General Assembly referred Amendment 20 to the voters for the November 2000 election. While the amendment passed with 53.5 percent of the vote state-wide, the amendment overwhelmingly failed in Delta County, with 60.34 percent of the electorate voting against the measure. Orchard City largely followed the county results, with 59.78 percent voting against.
Amendment 20 is codified in article XVIII, section 14 of the Colorado Constitution and provides legalized limited amounts of medical marijuana for patients and their primary caregivers. An informal rule between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Drug Enforcement Agency limited primary caregivers to five patients.
• 2006, Amendment 44 Recreational Marijuana: The first attempt to legalize recreation marijuana was brought before the Colorado electorate in November 2006. Amendment 44 failed statewide with 58.92 percent voting no. In Delta County, 68.78 percent voted against legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. In Orchard City, 75.15 percent of the voters said no to decriminalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.
If passed, Amendment 44 would have changed state law to allow people over 21 to possess an ounce or less of marijuana without legal penalty. Colorado at the time had a law which imposed $100 fine for simple possession of an ounce or less.
• 2009, Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment caregiver limit rejected:In July 2009, the Colorado Board of Health, by one vote, rejected the adoption of limiting caregivers to a max of five patients. The failure to adopt this formal rule effectively approved the dispensary model for Colorado.
• 2009, First Medical Marijuana Dispensary opens in Orchard City;
In July 2009, following the failure of the Health Department to adopt the five patient rule, the Grand Mesa Herbal Dispensary, LLC, becomes the first retail medical marijuana dispensary to open in Orchard City.
At the time, "the LLC's registered agent, Jay, told the DCI. 'I was asked by a local oncologist to start the dispensary,' When asked about the town's proposed moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, Jay said, "I've lived here (in Orchard City) 17 years, We all know this is a conservative area. I have a license. My plan was to open a location in Telluride. Telluride is an adult town, and I thought they would legalize it (marijuana) there the way Breckenridge did.'"
• 2009, Ogden Memorandum;
On October 19, 2009, Deputy United States Attorney General, David W. Ogden, issued a memorandum to prosecutors and federal agents saying it was not the policy of the Obama Administration to prosecute medical marijuana patients and caregivers who are in compliance with state law. The effect of the Ogden Memorandum was the "Green Rush" and medical marijuana dispensaries businesses popping up all over Colorado, including Orchard City.
• 2009, Moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries (Orchard City);
Orchard City adopted its first moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries on November 18, 2009. The moratorium was for 180 days to provide the town the ability to research and discuss the issue.
• 2010, Extended Moratorium on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (Orchard City);
In May 2010, Ordinance 2010-03 was adopted by Orchard City Trustees which extended the 2009 moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.
Between the two moratoriums, "Grand Mesa Herbal Dispensary, moved and expanded its operation from a sequestered site on Fruitgrowers road to a highly visible location on Highway 65. The town's moratorium had not included any prohibition against existing marijuana dispensaries expanding their operations."
• 2011, Orchard City bans medical marijuana facilities;
On July 1, 2011, Orchard City Trustees formally banned medical marijuana facilities.
• 2011, Delta (City) Referred Measure A;
In July 2011, the City of Delta held a special election to consider whether an ordinance to prohibit medical marijuana businesses from operating from within the jurisdiction of the city. The referred measure passed with 68% voting for the prohibition of medical marijuana businesses.
• 2012, Amendment 64: Recreational Marijuana;
In 2012, a super majority of Coloradoans, 55%, voted to legalize personal use and regulation of marijuana. The amendment provides for licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores. Local governments have the authority to regulate or prohibit such facilities.
In Delta County, voters soundly rejected Amendment 64, voting 55.8 percent against legalization. Precincts 9 and 108, which are the Town of Orchard City, voted 60% against legalizing of cannabis.
• 2013, Ordinances prohibiting retail pot passed by every municipality in Delta County;
In the summer of 2013, Orchard City trustees approved Ordinance 2013-01, prohibiting retail marijuana, which had been under draft and revision form since November 2012. At the public hearing to consider whether to adopt the ordinance, only one member of the public spoke against prohibiting retail marijuana. The other members of the public were adamantly for prohibiting retail sales within the town limits. The ordinance passed unanimously.
The ordinance prohibits commercial marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing, testing facilities, and retail marijuana stores. Crawford, Cedaredge, Delta, Hotchkiss and Paonia also adopted similar ordinances during 2013.
In August 2013, the Hotchkiss Town Council enacted an ordinance which banned commercial marijuana enterprises from entering the town's jurisdiction. The ordinance also carried a criminal penalty for violating the commercial prohibition of a fine of $999 and not more than one year in the county jail.
Delta's City Council, in mid-August 2013, also voted unanimously to "opt-out" of Amendment 64 and prohibit retail sales. Within the City of Delta, 56 percent of the population voted against the amendment and in 2011, 68% of the population had voted locally to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries.
• 2013, Proposition AA: Taxes on the Sale of Marijuana;
In November 2013, 65.27 percent of Coloradoans overwhelmingly approved a taxing measure to treat recreational cannabis like any other business. The General Assembly referred proposition implements a 15 percent marijuana excise tax, plus a 10 percent state sales tax.
The tax was a bit less popular in Delta County than around the state, as 57.42 percent of the citizens voted in favor of Proposition AA.
• 2014, Paonia Ballot Questions 2B and 2C;
In November of 2014, voters in Paonia were asked whether the town should establish and operate a retail marijuana cultivation facility (2B) and whether the town could tax the unprocessed retail marijuana and amend the tax as an increase or decrease, not to exceed a total local tax of 10 percent (2C).
In Paonia, 53 percent of the voters rejected Question 2B and 62 percent voted for Question 2C. After the vote, many attributed the rejection to a campaign launched by a group of high school and middle school students. The students walked door-to-door campaigning against Question 2B.
2015, Proposition BB: Marijuana TABOR Refund Measure;
Colorado law required the vote because the revenue exceeded the initial estimate. The overall revenue was more than voters approved for a marijuana tax in 2013. TABOR requires a projection to be made in a tax's first year. The voters, with 69.39 percent voting in favor, allowed the state keep a surplus in pot tax revenue. The measure allowed Colorado to keep $66 million in surplus revenue. The vast majority of these monies will be used for schools.
Delta County voted 63 percent in favor of allowing the state to keep the excess collected.
• 2016 Hotchkiss Ballot Issue 2A;
In April 2016, Hotchkiss voters considered whether to allow medical marijuana centers, optional cultivation operations, and possible sale of medical marijuana -infused products within the town's jurisdiction.
Ballot measure 2A was rejected by the voters, with 54 percent voting against allowing medical marijuana dispensaries and the optional cultivation operations.
• 2017 Proposed licensing of commercial cultivation and retail dispensaries
On Feb. 1, 2017, the Orchard City Trustees held a work session where the topic was means to enhance the town's revenue stream. The trustees stressed the town was not going broke in the short term, but medium and long term forecasts predicted significant budgetary shortfalls. Trustee Dick Kirkpatrick drafted a report which proposed among other alternatives the recommendation the town license commercial cultivation operations and retail marijuana dispensaries.
Over 100 residences turned up for the work session and dozens publicly stated their opposition to commercial cultivation and retail marijuana operations. Those who expressed their opposition included the County Sheriff, former naval officers, former trustees, business leaders, and retirees. Ten percent of the room spoke in favor of marijuana and they included marijuana industry representatives from Denver, locals who hoped to make their fortune in the "Green Rush", and residences who saw revenue from marijuana licensing fees as a means to generate revenue without raising water fees or establishing a sales tax.
Thanks to the efforts of state Rep. Millie Hamner, House District 61, Colorado State University plans to re-open the Rogers Mesa research site.
The facility was taken out of operation in 2011, due to budget cuts throughout the CSU system.