The Dolores Town Board’s debate on whether to legalize in-town sale of marijuana was a story of threes that failed to reach resolution. The board had three options, voted three times and each vote deadlocked 3-3.
“We have not handled our responsibility,” Mayor Chad Wheelus said after the third deadlocked vote at the board meeting held Tuesday.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Jerry Whited said the split votes reflect the community and that is partly why he would like to see the question of legalizing marijuana and placing a transaction fee on pot sales put before the voters.
“You are looking at a town split,” he said.
After the deadlocked votes, Wheelus tabled the issue until December, when the board will have to take action because the town’s moratorium on marijuana grows and the sale of medical and retail marijuana expires Dec. 31.
Wheelus encouraged the entire board to attend the December meeting. Trustee Jennifer Stark was absent Tuesday, leading to the deadlocked votes.
Another option for the board could have been to ban retail marijuana shops.
All three options –extending the moratorium, sending the question to the voters or banning marijuana sales – will remain on the table for the board to consider next month.
Resident Marie Battell said she would prefer the Town Board make a decision after researching the issue – though her “knee-jerk reaction” is to oppose retail marijuana sales. She also called for resolution of the lingering issue.
“Let’s just get it done and decide it one way or the other,” she said.
The board seemed to favor putting a question to the voters, with two of the board’s three failed motions focusing on ballot questions. One of the motions would have placed the question on the April 2020 ballot and the other would have placed it on the November 2020 ballot.
Some trustees were concerned placing a question on the April ballot would be too tight of a timeline.
A November ballot question likely would draw larger participation and would allow time for new Town Board members to take their seats and a new town manager to settle in, said Trustee James Biard. He made a motion to put the question on the November ballot.
Biard later voted against his own motion. He said in an interview after the meeting he could never support marijuana sales because as a coach he observed more problems with marijuana among students since legalization.
Another failed motion would have extended the moratorium for a year.
Trustee Tracy Murphy said she didn’t want more delays.
“I hate to just keep kicking the can down the road; I don’t feel like that is what we were elected to do,” she said.
One question the board researched was law enforcement costs associated with marijuana legalization. Eight communities that have legalized marijuana did not see significant cost increases for law enforcement, Murphy said.
Safety was the main concern for residents who spoke against legalizing pot shops.
Dolores School Board Member Lenetta Shull presented a formal letter from the board opposing legalizing marijuana shops in town because it could harm students.
Resident Kyan Maloney said she opposed marijuana sales because it could create unsafe environments. She said she has observed the negative effect of marijuana sales in Cortez, including an increase in vagrancy.
“I don’t want that to come to Dolores,” she said.