The Log Lane Village Board of Trustees on Wednesday night approved on second reading an ordinance that sets up licensing procedure for marijuana businesses in the town.
The split vote of 5-2 saw Mayor Ed Parker, Trustee/Town Marshal Fred Cook, Trustee/Mayor Pro Tem Rick Alva and Trustees Martha Manion and Jeanie Cardona vote "yes," while Trustees Rose Condos and Dee Jimenez voted "no."
The ordinance allows licensing of up to six each of recreational pot stores and medical marijuana dispensaries.
It also allows the licensees to include cultivation facilities to grow the plant and manufacturing facilities for making products, such as industrial hemp goods and edibles that include the drug.
The allowance for limited cultivation related to the businesses was something that was added last night to the ordinance on second reading, along with a slew of related wording changes in places in the law.
There were a number of other amendments, too, including changes to the planned renewal application and renewal operational fees. They were raised to $5,000 and $3,000, respectively. The initial application and initial operation fees stayed the same, also at $5,000 and $3,000, respectively.
Another amendment included adding a requirement that a marijuana business would have to "designate a person capable of physically responding to the business in an emergency situation within 10 minutes."
The ordinance now also includes rules that "ensure that new licensees do not overburden town utilities," including detailed plans for demand on the town water and sewer systems and a prohibition from exceeding those projected demands without prior town permission.
In order to get a license, people will have to meet all the requirements in the ordinance, pass the required local and state background checks, pay both the local and state fees and ultimately get approval from both the town board and the state.
People cannot even apply for a store or dispensary license until 30 days after the new ordinance takes effect and has been published, according to Town Attorney Carmen Beery, so it will still be a while before that process really begins.
The ordinance also lifted the town's existing prohibition of medical marijuana establishments and repealed a previous related ordinance.
Before voting, the board held a lengthy public hearing on the issue of whether to allow marijuana-related businesses in the town.
First up were four "expert" speakers to provide more information about how the stores and dispensaries have affected other areas, what role they serve in communities, their regulation and security and other related topics.
Teri Robnett, founder of Cannabis Patients Action Network [and Colorado NORML Board Member], shared how she had discovered medical marijuana as a solution for her fibromyalgia pain. She now advocates to the drug as medicine for patients.
She said she also assisted in Amendment 64's creation and then helped advise the legislature on related rules after it passed.
"I'm not in the industry," she said. "I want to see Colorado make good marijuana policy."
Next, Belita Nelson from iComply, a company specializing in retail cannabis regulation and compliance, and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, spoke about how she came to be in favor of legalizing marijuana.
She said her son got addicted to heroin, and her law enforcement experiences led her to believe that the war on drugs created more problems than the drugs did in the first place.
"Let's do this right," she said. "It's not just the country watching us. It's the world."
Next, attorney Jeri Shepherd, who was a public defender in Morgan County for a stretch [and a Colorado NORML Board Member], shared information about the success several small communities have had with allowing marijuana businesses.
She said that Garden City, near Greeley, has benefited greatly from medical dispensaries and now retail recreational pot.
Shepherd said the industry is "heavily regulated" to prevent children from getting the drug from the businesses, and it also is something the federal authorities stated they would leave alone as long as federal operational guidelines are being followed.
She did say that there is still a need to develop a better banking system for the industry in Colorado so that the businesses do not have large amounts of cash on hand at all times.
The next speaker was John Rotterham, who owns multiple marijuana businesses, including Nature's Herbs and Wellness in Garden City.
He told the board that his business is the largest enterprise and employer in that municipality and brought in several hundred thousand dollars in sales tax revenue for the small city last year.
"We help more medical patients every day than I ever imagined we would," he said.
Rotterham added that there is enough security required by the state that break-ins and robberies are not an issue. He said his business also grows the plants and makes many of the edible products sold in his stores.
The marijuana industry also brings in construction jobs and new economic development, Rotterham said, which he saw happen in Garden City. He said he is able to pay his employees "well above minimum wage."
Town residents and people from other parts of Morgan County also spoke.
Several speakers talked about concerns for children and safety.
Resident Bert Brown said he was in favor of allowing licensing the stores, and this sentiment was echoed by at least four others.
But there were just as many people who questioned whether it would help or hurt the town.
Fort Morgan Police Chief Darin Sagel and Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone each shared similar concerns about resulting law enforcement problems elsewhere in the county because of increased availability of the drug. Crone also said he was worried about where the supply for the stores would come from if the local grow operations could not keep up with demand.
Several people who previously spoke to the board on the issue came back to speak again last night, and the board heard from everyone who signed up to speak, no matter where the person lived.
"We have been floundering for years," Mayor Ed Parker said. "This is chance for town to progress."
The board also indicated that they likely would hold more public hearings on the issue to decide on any other regulations or amendments the town residents would like to see to the ordinance allowing licensing of the stores.
This article was originally published by the Fort Morgan Times.