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Community forum: no pot sales in Bayfield
7/19/2013 By: Carole McWilliams
Music in the Mountains, left, brought its brass quintet to First National Bank of Durango on Monday. The classical music festival continues throughout July 29. Tickets and information are online at www.musicinthemountains.com.
No one speaks in favor of retail marijuana sales in town
By Carole McWilliams
Times senior staff writer
The 10 people who showed up for the July 11 community forum on marijuana businesses in Bayfield were totally against any such thing.
The town hosted the meeting to get feedback in response to voter approval last November of Amendment 64 making possession and use of limited quantities of recreational marijuana legal for people age 21 and older in Colorado.
The town will host another forum on Tuesday, July 30.
Last week's meeting was fairly short, since there was no disagreement on the possibility of marijuana businesses in Bayfield.
Town Manager Chris La May said that under Amendment 64, businesses could include retail sales, commercial cultivation, testing, or production of infused products.
The State Department of Revenue had to adopt regulations governing these businesses by July 1, La May said, and local governments have until Oct. 1 to ban these businesses or designate a local official responsible for licensing. If they don't ban these businesses, they must decide which types of businesses to allow and what sorts of fees and restrictions to impose, he said.
Statewide voters will decide in November whether to impose a 10 percent sales tax on top of the current 2.9 percent state sales tax on retail marijuana sales, and a 15 percent excise tax on cultivation. Town voters could be asked whether to impose additional town sales tax or add an excise tax on retail sales if they are allowed, La May said.
He asked for a show of hands of who wanted to ban marijuana businesses. All audience members raised their hands.
La May expects town trustees to discuss all this in August, with some sort of decision before Oct. 1.
Audience member Ray Wallace said, "I've been here five years. By far the people I've talked to are against retail marijuana. I understand there's some tax money involved. Why don't we just legalize prostitution instead," he joked.
He argued for a ban on marijuana businesses. "It's all over the county, and people can grow it at home," he said.
Pauline Beaver cited her experience as a registered nurse in California. "When people come off this stuff, we have to put them in 4-point restraints with ativan drips. They are stark raving lunatics. I’ve seen it. They are violent."
Ignacio area rancher and former state representative J. Paul Brown said that marijuana possession and use is "still a federal crime. I was on the health committee in the legislature. They gave a presentation on the effects of marijuana. It scared me to death. It’s bad, bad stuff! People try to compare it to alcohol. To me there’s no comparison."
Bayfield resident Bob Kennedy said he's been doing drug and alcohol counseling at the county jail for five years. "They know they are hooked. It (THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) stays in your system for 30 days. You build it up."
Catholic Deacon John O'Hare read off a long list of dire effects from marijuana use, that he attributed to the Center for Recovery Inc.
"What I hear over and over is they (users) start on marijuana and advance from there," O'Hare said. From the list, he said THC over-activates a person's system and impairs thinking, coordination, and memory. It can more than double a driver's risk of a crash, and the risk is even higher if combined with alcohol, he said.
It can seriously damage still-developing teen brains, he said, with a long-lasting decrease in cognitive abilities. He cited a connection with mental illness, including depression and suicidal thoughts. It can be addictive by affecting the brain’s reward centers, O'Hare said, and the likelihood of addiction increases the younger a person starts using marijuana.
"I've seen these symptoms in jail over and over. The same in New Mexico. You start with marijuana and progress from there," O'Hare said.
Wallace said, "The youngest one (counseling client) I had said he used to smoke with his grandma when he was five years old."
Cookie Hoselton said she has grandkids here, including two at Bayfield High School. "My grandson said it's a problem at BHS," she said.
Wallace asserted, "There's a documented increase in high schools in states that have legalized it." He said that in May 2010, around 90 people showed up for a town board meeting on whether to allow medical marijuana businesses, "and most were against it. Most were from in town."
Many of these sorts of meetings draw a lot of out-of-town residents.
The Times reported on that May 2010 meeting:
Ninety-eight people packed into the town hall meeting room and entry way, by fire department count, just short of the 102 where people would be turned away.
Thirty-two people commented for and against dispensaries in the hour allotted before the town board meeting started. Sixteen spoke for dispensaries, including emotional personal testimony on the benefits of medical marijuana; and 16 people spoke against or wanted a delay in the vote.
Trustees then voted 5 to 1 not to allow medical marijuana businesses in town.
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