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Bayfield residents voice opposition to legalizing marijuana

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Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 6:19 PM
Pastor Scott Kujath of Pine River Church addresses the Bayfield Town Board on Tuesday during a meeting about retail marijuana sales in town. About 100 people attended.

Not in Bayfield.

That was the message people brought to a forum about retail or medical marijuana sales in Bayfield last week.

Citing a potential increase in crime and homelessness, a majority of speakers asked the town board not to lift the ban on sales in town.

“It’s going to tear this town apart,” said Roger Warner, who moved to Bayfield from Leadville, which has dispensaries. “They’re out of their minds up there.”

Matt Hoffer, however, asked the town trustees to consider removing restrictions on cultivation within the three-mile boundary around Bayfield town limits, saying it restricts landowner rights. That would also be a compromise between a total ban and allowing sales in town, he said.

Two other residents spoke in favor of cultivating marijuana in the area but said retail sales shouldn’t be allowed.

Town Manager Chris La May estimated retail sales in Bayfield could raise $50,000 to $200,000 in annual tax revenues. The board has three options: leave the ban in place, vote to overturn the ban or put the ban up to a vote by Bayfield residents.

About 100 people jammed into Bayfield Town Hall for the meeting. A few favored of sales in town.

“Marijuana has been widespread in this town” for decades, said Jackie Morlan. “I want to thank you for taking a big risk to have this public hearing,” she told town trustees.

Marijuana sales are an opportunity for Bayfield to move forward, she said.

“We’re giving sales tax revenues to other towns,” said Molly Orendorff. “The town needs all the revenue we can get.”

That sentiment was overridden by most speakers.

“Why are we here again?” asked John Beebe, adding that town residents’ views on marijuana sales haven’t changed much in recent years.

Several mentioned the increase in the homeless population in Durango and said they don’t want to visit downtown Durango anymore.

Revenue raised by retail sales would be offset by rising costs for law enforcement and emergency services, residents said.

Town codes currently prohibit the licensing or operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and retail marijuana stores and related uses.

The town also prohibits medical marijuana centers, commercial cultivation operations or businesses manufacturing medical marijuana-infused products.

At their Dec. 19 meeting, town trustees voted unanimously to re-evaluate the prohibitions.

Last week’s meeting was for public input only. Town trustees did not vote on lifting the ban on sales.

More than 20 people spoke against lifting the ban, six spoke in favor of in-town sales, and three asked the town to remove the cultivation ban in the three miles beyond Bayfield town limits.

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