SILT — The Board of Trustees here is split about whether to allow retail marijuana shops into town, and it appears a decision will come down to the vote of one man — Trustee Keith Richel.
During a work session on Aug. 19, the board talked for nearly three hours about the local ramifications of Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, which was passed by the state’s voters in 2012.
The laws related to that amendment make it legal for any person over the age of 21 to possess, use and grow pot up to a certain quantity, and establish rules for businesses that grow, sell and convert pot into edible products to be sold to the public.
As was noted during the meeting, nearly 53 percent of Silt’s voters approved Amendment 64, while about 46 percent voted against it.
Pot remains illegal under federal law, however, which has caused many communities across the state, including Silt, to approach the issue warily.
At the end of the discussion, the issue came down to an even split among the seven trustees, with Mayor Dave Moore and trustees Paul Taylor and Jeff LaValla opposing pot-related businesses of any kind in town, while Trustees Rick Aluise, Sonny Fernandez and Bryan Fleming said they were in favor of allowing the businesses in.
Aluise, summarizing the tally near the end of the meeting, mistakenly placed Richel on the side against allowing pot-related businesses into town, but was corrected by Richel.
“I’d like to say that I’m probably the one person on this board that hasn’t made a decision either way,” Richel declared. “I could swing either way.”
The trustees at one point considered putting it to the town’s voters in November, but Town Administrator Pamela Woods said there is not enough time left to get the question on the general election ballot.
Instead, the trustees decided to aim for the spring municipal election, which will allow more time to draft a ballot question.
Currently, the town has a permanent moratorium in place on medical marijuana businesses, which were made legal by the state’s voters in 2000.
And as in other towns across Colorado, Silt has been wrestling with questions about how to implement provisions of Amendment 64.
The mayor kicked off the work session on Tuesday with a PowerPoint presentation outlining his understanding of a wide range of issues related to the national prohibition against marijuana, and the decisions by Colorado voters to ignore that prohibition.
“I think it’s safe to say,” the mayor began, looking around the room at the other trustees, “we’re not as informed on marijuana as the average teenager on the street is.”
Moore said that, based on his application of a formula used by federal drug control agencies, there are 327 Silt residents who use pot, and if pot is being sold at $100 per ounce, the sales tax income from retail pot shops would come to only a little more than $10,000 annually.
“So it’s not going to be the cash cow that some people say it is,” he predicted.
But Trustee Fleming, later in the meeting, maintained that pot sales in Silt could generate at least twice as much as Moore indicated, and perhaps much more, if the businesses were allowed into town.
Both Moore and Trustee Paul Taylor strongly argued against allowing the businesses in.
Taylor, at one point, said the town would be “destroyed” if the businesses were allowed to operate in Silt.
“There’s a reason it’s been outlawed for 70 years,” Taylor maintained. “It’s illegal, and it’s a bad drug. The voters didn’t approve this for any other reason than to smoke marijuana. They didn’t take into consideration the damage it can cause.”
But, countered Fleming, “Our voters voted for it. Do we do nothing, and ignore them?”
Taylor and others argued that it is likely that the voters did not understand exactly what they were voting for, and it is up to the trustees to make decisions in the voter’s best interests.
Police Chief Levy Burris, while maintaining that marijuana is a harmful drug, agreed with Aluise and Fleming, he said.
“We have to address it from the law enforcement side just because it’s there,” he told the trustees.
But, he added, “Don’t allow it here yet. Give it a year.”
The trustees will take the issue up again at the next regular meeting, on Aug. 26.
“There’s a reason [pot]’s been outlawed for 70 years. It’s illegal, and it’s a bad drug.”
Silt Trustee Paul Taylor