Craig considers vote on recreational pot
Craig Daily Press
Craig City Hall was packed for last week’s council meeting with residents interested in marijuana ballot language reviewed by council.
Council approved the first readings of three marijuana ordinances that could appear as three separate ballot measures in April. The questions will not go to voters until the second readings are passed at the next council meeting Jan. 24.
The first ordinance would legalize retail marijuana sales and stores, cultivation and testing facilities. Councilmen John Ponikvar, Jarrod Ogden and Derek Duran voted in favor of the first reading, while Joe Bird and Tony Bohrer voted against it.
Both Bird and Bohrer felt that the initial ordinance should wait until the November election so it does not overshadow a local sales/use tax measure that will appear on the April ballot. The pair also wanted more time to study legalization of recreational marijuana.
“There is a lot of information that I don’t have,” Bird said. “I don’t want to have to be looking backwards.”
Bird acted as mayor pro tem, a role currently held by Kent Nielson, who was not present at the council meeting and did not have a vote in Tuesday’s proceedings. City Attorney Sherman Romney said Nielson also will not be at the next January council meeting.
Mayor Ray Beck started his newly elected role as a Moffat County commissioner on Tuesday.
Two other marijuana ordinances dealing with the excise and sales tax of recreational pot also passed first reading Tuesday night.
Specifically, the marijuana sales tax ordinance states that if retail marijuana sales are allowed in city limits, a municipal sales tax of 5 percent will be collected on all retail and medical marijuana transactions.
The marijuana excise tax ordinance states that the transfer or sale of cannabis between a retail cultivation facility and a retail marijuana store will be taxed 5 percent.
Thirteen people spoke to council — some in favor and some against — about the potential legalization of recreational pot in Craig.
Michael Lausin, a veteran and the owner of Solutions Oriented Systems in Craig, spoke in favor.
“As a business owner, I’m seeing a very disturbing trend of businesses leaving Craig or going out of business altogether,” Lausin said. “In the north Yampa block alone, I believe there are five empty storefronts and two empty restaurant locations.”
He added that the lack of tax being collected is hurting the city’s ability to provide services.
“Will retail cannabis cure our sales tax problems? Probably not, but by not taking the opportunity to make up some of the shortfall with a legal substance is being very shortsighted,” he said.
Three other veterans also stood up in favor of the measures, while other business owners spoke against it, including Vic Updike, who owns Masterworks Mechanical.
Updike pointed to how the Committee to Grow Craig — a group in support of retail pot legalization — failed to gain enough signatures to put it to a county vote last November.
The petition to put a recreational marijuana ordinance on November’s ballot in Craig was unsuccessful.
The petition needed 940 signatures from registered voters but garnered only half that number.
“You know, if they have enough signatures to put it on the ballot, by all means, the right of the vote is in there,” Updike said.
Bohrer argued that pot questions should go to a county vote in November rather than being on the municipal ballot.
County commissioners can refer measures onto the ballot, and City Council has the right to put a city measure to voters without the petition process — but those living outside of city limits can’t vote on the issue.
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