A Cortez landowner urged city council members at their meeting Tuesday to consider allowing marijuana cultivation operations in industrial zones within city limits.
Council members remained skeptical, though, and said they would need more information before they would consider changing the city land use code.
Mark Rodgers, who owns property in the Cortez Industrial Park, said allowing marijuana cultivation and manufacturing in industrial zones would create jobs and promote economic growth in the city. He said if he were allowed to convert his property to such an operation, between 15 and 20 jobs would be created, and more with potential future expansions. Rodgers’ request is to allow cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana, but not retail businesses or dispensaries, he said.
Rodgers said other industrial park landowners had expressed interest in starting marijuana operation, and allowing them to do so could create 50 or more well-paying jobs. Osprey Packs will soon vacate the buildings it currently occupies in the industrial park, and marijuana operations could be a possibility for those facilities, too, Rodgers said.
He admitted some skepticism for the state’s marijuana industry, though.
“I don’t think it should be allowed in the state,” Rodgers said. “But it’s here. It’s allowed in the city. It seems to me the natural place to have it would be in the industrial park.”
In his report to council members, City Manager Shane Hale said that city officials had decided not to allow marijuana production in industrial zones for several reasons. First, the police department likely would need to increase patrols in the industrial park if pot grow operations were there, Hale said. This could create an additional burden for the police department, he said.
Second, the city does not impose an excise tax on marijuana production. The voters would need to pass a measure authorizing the city to impose such a tax, and there is no guarantee voters would do so, Hale said. Third, allowing industrial pot might increase the number of allowed marijuana businesses in Cortez. The city is approaching the number of pot businesses that distance restrictions allow in the city’s commercial zones, he said.
Hale and City Attorney Mike Green said changing the land use code for industrial pot could set a precedent or open the door for other changes to the code regarding marijuana. Hale said city staffers are often contacted by people or groups who would like to see the code changed. In the past month, city staff had met with individuals who wanted the option of an on-site marijuana consumption club, as well as an individual that wanted to open a marijuana “mini-mall” with a variety of pot-related businesses.
Mayor Karen Sheek expressed some concern to Rodgers that so many landowners in the industrial park seemed to have interest in marijuana. She asked Rodgers if the city would be enabling a “huge marijuana farm in the industrial park” if council members changed the code.
Rodgers said that would be a possibility, but again pointed to job creation and economic growth as reasons his idea was viable and appropriate.
Green said it’s speculation that allowing industrial pot would create that many jobs.
“You can’t say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ and have all these things happen,” he told the council.
Council members did not take a vote on the issue Tuesday, indicating they would need more information from city officials and local business owners before considering such a change. Council members said they would like to know how a code change would impact the police and building departments.