Parachute planning board to consider marijuana cultivation licenses |

Parachute planning board to consider marijuana cultivation licenses

Ryan Hoffman

The Parachute planning and zoning board will consider the town’s first two marijuana cultivation licenses tonight, Thursday, nine days after 65 percent of voters approved an excise tax on unprocessed marijuana in the town.

The ordinance, which a total of 164 residents voted on, levies a 5 percent tax on unprocessed marijuana sold or transferred from a cultivation facility to a retail establishment. Language in the ordinance caps the amount of revenue generated in the fiscal year starting Jan. 1, 2016, at $200,000.

Since repealing the town’s ban on marijuana establishments in June, town trustees have approved four retail licenses and one manufacturing license, but have not yet considered an application for a cultivation license. Laws regulating the marijuana industry in Parachute require cultivation licenses to receive a special use review approval from the town’s planning board before they can appear before trustees, who serve as the marijuana authority body. And unlike retail stores, testing facilities and manufacturing sites, retail cultivation facilities are confined to light industrial districts and general industrial districts.

If the planning board approves the cultivation applications, they would not appear before trustees until the December meeting, Stuart McArthur, town manager, said last week. Two more retail license applications are currently being reviewed by staff, and one could appear before trustees at their meeting Nov. 19.

The first cultivation application on Thursday’s agenda is from West Run, Inc., which according to its application is based in Grand Junction. The planned location for the proposed cultivation facility is listed as 104 Cardinal Way.

The second applicant is a more familiar name and the application will require some additional work. Trustee John Loschke, and his wife Sherry, are asking the board to rezone some property at 250 ½ S. Railroad Ave. from service commercial to light industrial. The Loschkes are also on Thursday’s agenda as applicants for a marijuana cultivation license at the same location, however, they will likely ask for a continuation on the cultivation license, Loschke said.

“We’re still getting our ducks in a row,” he said.

Loschke, who has served in town government for nearly three decades, joined Mayor Roy McClung, Mayor Pro-Tem Juanita Williams, and trustees Tim Olk and Tom Rugaard in repealing the town’s marijuana ban in June. After that vote, Loschke said he was approached by several businesses wanting to use his land for marijuana cultivation. After some consideration, he decided to try and lease the land to a company out of Boulder for cultivation and eventually a retail store, but they are still working on the details.

Since the repeal of the ban, the marijuana issue has been divisive for the town, which is struggling with a loss of sales tax revenue in the face of the current natural gas slump. In October, the citizen-initiated group Let the People Vote successfully filed petitions to McClung, Olk, Rugaard and Loschke. It did not file to recall Williams because she is up for election in April.

The same week the recall petitions were filed, a group of business owners and other residents spoke in support of the trustees and their decision at an October meeting.

Along with the recall, the opposition also filed a lawsuit alleging the town failed to follow proper procedures when trustees approved the first two retail applications in September.

The town has since filed a response to the lawsuit with the court, McArthur said. As for the recall effort, the board will have to certify the election, which will likely be included in the already-planned April election. McArthur expects the matter to be brought before the board in either the November or December meeting.

As for the vote on the excise tax, McArthur said he is not drawing any conclusions from the result.

“I don’t know why a lot of people voted the way they voted,” he said. “I don’t pretend to interpret votes.”

Parachute resident Pam Jarrett, who has led much of the opposition, said Let the People Vote decided to stay “in the background” on the excise tax issue.

“The positive thing is that a greater number of Parachute voters voted,” Jarrett said in an email last week. “We are having more people interested in the process which is assured by the freedoms of our great country.”

Some people who are opposed to the business in town voted in favor of the tax to discourage potential buyers from purchasing unprocessed marijuana in Parachute, Jarrett added.

November’s election was not the last time Parachute residents will vote on a marijuana-related issue. Let the People Vote successfully petitioned to put a ban on marijuana establishments on the ballot. However, due to a provision in Amendment 64 — the statewide initiative legalizing recreational marijuana — voters will not get to decide that issue until November 2016.

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