Weed industry could grow in Mesa County
DeBeque is the first town in Mesa County to allow recreational marijuana, and it may not be the last. Palisade will also ask its voters whether legal pot should be allowed within city limits during November’s election. It currently hosts only one medical marijuana shop, though recreational products and related business is still banned.
Since last year’s adoption of Amendment 64 — which allowed marijuana to be sold, taxed and smoked legally (by those 21 and older) in the state of Colorado — recreational marijuana businesses were shut out of Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade, and unincorporated Mesa County; DeBeque currently has one in the works, Kush Gardens, which will likely be licensed in October. Medical marijuana businesses are additionally banned from the valley, outside Palisade’s single shop — Colorado Alternative Health Care, which opened in 2009.
Even so, small changes seeped into the area since Amendment 64 went into effect. For instance, in August 2013 Grand Junction City Council passed an ordinance regarding marijuana consumption and possession that brought local regulations in line with the rest of the state.
“Amendment 64 changed everything,” Colorado Alternative Health Care co-owner Jesse Loughman said, including public perception from travelers from outside state borders.
According to Loughman, only those with medical marijuana cards can enter and purchase products from his shop. Since marijuana was legalized last summer, however, he regularly turns folks away who think they can enter without cards.
“Regulations have changed, too — including packaging, labeling, and testing,” he explained. “We’ve seen some new growing pains” this past year.
“Assuming recreational sales passes, we’re looking to open a separate location that would allow recreational cannabis,” he added.
OK-ing recreational marijuana could potentially create a tax boom for the sleepy town of Palisade, Loughman confirmed. He estimates that Palisade receives $60,000-$80,000 annually from his single business, including sales tax and a $5-per-sale transaction fee.
The folks of DeBeque also hope recreational marijuana sales will bring in much needed funds for their small town, officially totaling 503 people who are primarily employed by Colorado’s boom-and-bust energy industry.
“It won by four votes” last spring, DeBeque’s town manager Guy Patterson said. “Not everybody in town is in love with the idea.”
Zoning and the application process has already been determined, Patterson noted. Now, DeBeque’s tax rate for recreational marijuana will go to a vote this fall.
“We’ve had a lot of meetings with a lot of people who are curious about annexing in property to do something with marijuana” in DeBeque, he added, though he hasn’t yet received applications.
DeBeque and Palisade are the only Mesa County entities with marijuana questions on November’s ballot. Grand Junction, Fruita, and unincorporated Mesa County plan to continue bans, public officials confirmed.
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