Routt County Commissioners hear law enforcement concerns on rural pot grows
Marijuana in the mountains
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Steamboat Springs — Town of Breckenridge detective Caitlin Kontak urged the Routt County Board of Commissioners Aug. 9 to consider adopting the same enforcement regulations applied by the state of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) should they ultimately decide to allow grow operations in the rural county.
“Give your law enforcement teeth,” Kontak said. “We just re-did town ordinances to include the MED rules,” in order to get future violators to court in a timely fashion.
Without enforceable ordinances, Kontak explained, she has had to revert to civil remedies, which tend to drag out, in order to get violators into court. Kontak said her department has shut down one small grow operation after it was found to be transporting marijuana out of state.
The Board of Commissioners was conducting a work session Tuesday to hear the concerns and experiences of local officials as they consider lifting a moratorium and allowing prospective marijuana grow operators to apply for a special use permit to enable a commercial option in the county’s agricultural/forestry zone districts.
Chairwoman Cari Hermacinski promised an audience of about 25 people there would be more hearings before any decision is taken.
“We’re months away,” Hermacinski said, “probably half a year away.”
That said, the commissioners have directed County Attorney Erick Knaus to take steps to place a question on the November ballot that would ask voters for permission to collect the 5 percent excise tax allowed by state law on the first sale of unprocessed marijuana. That doesn’t mean that allowing grow facilities is a foregone conclusion, instead, commissioners want to be in a position to collect the tax should they take that step.
Kontak told the Board of Commissioners that Summit County’s stance on permitting marijuana businesses is “hands off.”
Routt County Planner Alan Goldich explained that Summit County government’s restrictions on pot operations “are so strict it takes all of the available land out of circulation.”
Town of Oak Creek Administrator Mary Alice Page-Allen had a different take on the Marijuana Enforcement Division from that of Kontak.
“We see no reason to repeat what the MED already does,” she said. “We’ve developed a very good relationship.”
But now, she said, Oak Creek has run out of room to accommodate new grow facilities.
Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch told commissioners he considered it essential that county government ensure that the owner and employees of any grow facility allowed in the rural county be fully vetted and confirmed to be “of good moral character.”
He also asked commissioners to impose environmental health oversight on grow facilities to help deputies responding to a call know if they need to be protected against dangerous chemicals by self-contained breathing equipment.
Birch also said he contacted Sheriff Bruce Newman of Huerfano County and learned that he has had no issue with four large grow facilities in his jurisdiction.
“His issues are with illegal grows,” Birch said.
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