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Opinion: ‘Grow Baby, Grow’

Ken Johnson
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Free Press Opinion Columnist

For funny turns in our lives, the vote on whether to allow recreational pot shops in three Mesa County towns feels a tad odd.

Here is DeBeque, population about 500, agreeing to try it by four votes — 69 Yea to 65 Nay. Fruita and Collbran turned it down.

Given that illegal marijuana is apparently pretty easy to find — but high-quality, locally grown legal stuff is not easy — DeBeque may hit the jackpot on this one.



Think about it. The town is just off Interstate 70, a route easily traveled by tourists and locals alike. If the town can actually manage the project, in a couple of years there might not be any more city taxes needed. Pot of gold, so to speak.

I have long thought I knew quite a bit about some obscure parts of Colorado, but I don’t recall ever hearing the name, let alone seeing it on the map; Garden City, Colorado. Have you ever been there?



It’s hiding in Weld County. You can find it if you’re on Highway 85 North on your way to Greeley from Brighton. Don’t blink, and when the highways squiggle around the 34 and 85 intersection, be sure to take 85 Business North. You are past Evans. Both towns seem to be part of Greeley itself.

Thanks to radio and TV broadcaster Charles Osgood, and many years of various newspapers running “poke fun at them” stories about Garden City, we have a preview of what can happen in DeBeque.

Garden City, now population 350 or so, is “The City Prohibition Built.” The noble experiment ended in 1933, except that Weld County stayed “dry.” An irritated, smart and tenacious almost-farmer/bootlegger, A. F. Ray, had a truck garden beside the highway. He sold hollowed out watermelons filled with bottles of booze. Shortly he was inspired to grow his business.

Lots of newspaper stories relate how in 1935 he set about making his truck garden a city, so he could issue liquor licenses. The temperance folks of Greeley, the Weld County District attorney and the Colorado Secretary of State fought the idea and stalled things for about three years, when a Colorado Supreme Court ruling somehow let him become legal; legal to be a one-house town and issue restaurant and bar licenses. And wouldn’t you know the first one the new town founder issued was to his own “Nob Hill Tavern.”

Then came a bunch of others, as Garden City became the place to go to swill booze in Weld County. All was swell until 1968, when Greeley finally gave in and went “wet.” Things just slowed way down after that.

All this is fun, but when medical marijuana came along (and now recreational pot became legal) it became even more fun; it’s also instructive for DeBeque.

Seems that Garden City has always been pretty laid back, and since it’s in Colorado, a bit high. As the only town in Weld County to sell weed, it’s likely to get higher.

Legalized medicinal sales brought in over $250,000 in taxes and fees in 2013. The town decided every tree in town, both city and private, gets trimmed each spring, free of charge. The town is looking better.

Oh, and the city gives grants to all residents who will paint their fence, house or storefront. Imagine that!

Now, barely into the recreational market, they expect lots bigger things.

You can bet that Garden City can expect a visitor or two from DeBeque, looking for answers on what works and what doesn’t. Shoot, DeBeque has a bigger population and is on an actual major highway as a starter! And it’s way out in the open space.

Can DeBeque manage weed as well as Garden City? If so, it may have just entered Colorado’s newest, hottest growth industry.

You can almost hear a slogan right now; “Grow Baby, Grow.”

GJ Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.


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