Silt marijuana debate grows testier than usual

John Colson
Post Independent Staff

SILT — The ongoing debate over pot shops in town grew testier than usual on Monday, when Trustee Rick Aluise essentially accused Mayor Dave Moore of grandstanding in the use of PowerPoint presentations to underscore his arguments against allowing retail marijuana businesses into Silt.

The Board of Trustees, at its regular meeting on Monday, agreed to have the town staff write up a proposed ordinance that would establish a moratorium on all retail marijuana businesses until Jan. 1, 2015. In the meantime, the town will ask voters in April 2014 whether they, the voters, meant it when they voted in favor of recreational marijuana’s legalization last year, and the trustees generally agreed to follow the will of the voters, however the election comes out.

Across Colorado, towns and cities are trying to determine how best to deal with the ramifications of Amendment 64, approved in November 2012, which makes it legal in Colorado for those 21 and older to grow, smoke and possess marijuana, as well as authorizing the creation of a retail industry for cultivation, processing into edibles and other products, and conduct quality tests on the marijuana. In contrast to the medical marijuana authorization from 2000, the current debate is said to be about “recreational marijuana.”

Towns have until Oct. 1 to set up their own ordinances governing the new recreational marijuana industry, as that is the date when existing medical marijuana outlets can apply to convert their businesses to retail stores under Amendment 64. Because Silt already permanently banned medical marijuana businesses from town, that deadline does not really apply to the town, said town attorney Mike Sawyer.

“There hasn’t been a hundred-dollar ounce in this state in probably 40 years.”
Lee Kirk

The spat on Monday began when the mayor, in opening discussion about retail pot shops, brought up a PowerPoint presentation on the screen in the board meeting room, outlining his belief that the businesses would not be a financial boon to the town, despite opinions to the contrary on the Silt Board of Trustees and elsewhere in Colorado.

Aluise immediately objected, telling the mayor, “I’ve seen it, and I don’t need to see it again.”

The mayor, however, said the presentation he had planned for the Monday meeting was different from the previous presentation, to which Aluise replied that he still did not wish to see the presentation.

“Your opinion is no more important than the rest of ours,” Aluise said, and demanded that the mayor cancel the PowerPoint presentation. At the trustees’ last meeting, on Aug. 12, the mayor had used a PowerPoint presentation to advance his claims about the effects of legalized pot businesses in town, which Aluise said he had felt was inappropriate at that time, too.

“We have a procedure up there, and we should follow it,” Aluise said, pointing to a wall-mounted document that outlines the procedures of conduct at trustee meetings and does not mention PowerPoint presentations by trustees.

“I think that PowerPoint presentations are not in our procedures,” he told the mayor, “and I will make a motion to that effect if I have to.”

After some protesting remarks, the mayor agreed to forgo his presentation for the moment. But when the agenda reached the time for trustee comments he went ahead and showed it anyway, concentrating mainly on what he maintained were the high costs, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars, that he believed the town would face to regulate the new industry.

Afterward, Aluise remarked that Moore’s figures were “completely overblown, and are just guesses.”

During the discussion itself, Trustee Keith Richel told the rest of the board, “Being the guy who was on the fence last time, I’d like to see a temporary moratorium on all types of marijuana-related businesses until June of 2014.”

That date, he said, should give the town enough time to react to the April vote in the subject, whichever way it goes.

But Trustee Paul Taylor, a former policeman who has resisted any move into Silt by pot-related businesses, said the town needs until January 2015 to respond to the vote, particularly if the voters restate their support for Amendment 64.

Others on the board, including Aluise and Trustees Sonny Fernandez, and Bryan Fleming, said they would prefer the moratorium end in June 2014, so as to respond quickly to the voters’ desires.

The town also heard from a few citizens during a public hearing on the issue.

“I think this board should quit dithering, and do it,” said Lee Kirk, a Silt Mesa resident and a business owner in town.

“One out of every two people you see probably smokes pot in this town,” she declared, noting that she has smoked pot for most of her life and has not been destroyed by it, which is what some detractors believe happens to anyone who uses pot.

She, too, took issue with Moore’s figures in the PowerPoint presentation, particularly to his estimation that at $100 per ounce a sales tax on marijuana would not do much for the town’s finances.

“There hasn’t been a hundred-dollar ounce in this state in probably 40 years,” she said, adding that “this has been such a political issue for so many years, and the people that are so vehemently against it by and large probably have never smoked it.”

Her husband, Terry, who does not smoke pot, said he nevertheless supports the idea of having the new businesses in town, if only for the tax revenues.

But Mark Anderson, a longtime resident who no longer uses pot, said he thought the trustees were taking a good and prudent path by putting it to a vote and imposing the temporary moratorium.

Town Administrator Pamela Moore told the trustees the staff would write up a proposed ordinance calling for a moratorium until January 2015 and a vote in April 2014, and offer it at a future trustees’ meeting for consideration.

In other action, the trustees also gave final approval to a hike in the town’s sales tax rate, from 3 percent to 3.75 percent.

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