GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Some officials in Garfield County and its constituent towns, who never have supported the nascent, voter-approved recreational marijuana industry, said on Friday that their views have not changed in the wake of announcements that federal agencies will not prosecute businesses and individuals who are in compliance with the new state laws legalizing the possession, use and sale of marijuana by adults.
“Not mine,” declared New Castle Councilor Mary Metzger, who has firmly opposed the idea of pot shops operating in her town. She refused to discuss the issue further, and other New Castle officials could not be reached on Friday for comment for this story.
Mayor Dave Moore of Silt, who has voted to ban any recreational pot shops from town, concurred, noting “People have already made up their minds, and I doubt many will change.”
And Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, sounding dismissive of the federal pronouncement, told a reporter, “So, they’re going to do selective enforcement.”
Noting that neighboring states have threatened to sue Colorado and the federal government if the new industry results in smugglers bringing pot into Wyoming, Kansas and Utah, and that federal banking regulations still make it illegal for marijuana profits to be deposited in a federally insured bank, Martin declared, “My position wouldn’t change until all those issues are resolved.”
About the broader questions regarding recent legalization of pot for those over 21 in Colorado and Washington, he added, “It’s still a wide-open issue. This is a violation of the [federal] law, except in two states.”
New Castle and Silt, like other towns and cities throughout the state, are grappling with the issues raised by the passage of Amendment 64 by Colorado’s electorate last November, making marijuana legal in Colorado for those over 21.
Moore cited concerns about criminal activities that might occur at or around pot shops, such as burglaries and violence committed by burglars, or the possibility that organized crime might become involved with the new pot industry, among other worries.
“There’s a rash of homicides related to marijuana” in Denver, he maintained, pointing to statements by Denver DA Mitch Morrissey.
Morrissey reportedly told the Denver City Council in late July that the city had had “12 homicides” and “over 100 aggravated robberies and home invasions” linked to the legal marijuana trade. But he later said that his statistics were “loose figures” and that none of the homicides he had mentioned were actually in an established medical marijuana facility.
Moore also spoke of concerns about “second-hand smoke from marijuana, and whether that’s child abuse or not.”
And, he continued, “I still have concerns that it could affect any grants we might get from the federal government,” though he admitted he had seen no indication that this might actually happen.
When asked why no one had proposed shutting down the liquor industry despite clear, indisputable evidence that liquor stores attract burglars and armed robbers, or that minors regularly get their hands on booze — questions raised by those in favor of treating marijuana the same as alcohol in the eyes of the law — Moore said, “I think that their argument is justified.”
But a moment later, he said, “I think it’s a moot point about liquor stores, because it’s already a legal enterprise ... and there are liquor stores all over the United States.”
The new laws enacting Amendment 64, he noted, give municipalities and counties the option of banning recreational marijuana stores, farms and manufacturers of edible pot products, and many have done so.
Silt should be one of those who ban it, he declared.
“I think it’s very complicated, and there are still a lot of issues that have to be resolved,” he concluded, adding that the Silt Board of Trustees’ plan to place a moratorium on the new businesses until Jan. 1, 2015, will mean that “a lot of those questions can be answered in that time.”
Still, he said of the federal announcement to back off from prosecuting Colorado pot businesses and users under the new laws, “I guess it benefits the town, if it’ll keep the feds off our backs for a while.”
Martin, however, did not see it that way, arguing that the “selective enforcement” is not beneficial.
“That’s kind of the way I see it,” he said. “It’s favoritism” on behalf of the U.S. Justice System.
“It’s just tearing a hole in the fabric of the nation,” he concluded.