Editorial staff comment
Palisade’s Marijuana Ballot Questions simplified
This year’s presidential politics notwithstanding, it is also an interesting year locally for Palisade residents. For the second time in four years, questions will be on the ballot regarding the sale of recreational marijuana in Palisade. Ballots should be mailed to citizens beginning October 17, to be returned before Election Day on November 8.
There will actually be five questions on the ballot that deal with the local regulation of recreational marijuana. (Sale of medicinal marijuana has been permitted in Palisade since 2009.) The separate questions deal with: 1) establishment and operation of retail marijuana stores; 2) establishment and operation of manufacturing facilities for production of edibles and other consumables containing marijuana; 3) establishment and operation of retail marijuana testing facilities; 4) establishment and operation of retail marijuana cultivation facilities; and 5) imposition of a municipal excise tax on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana cultivation (grown in Palisade and sold to retailers outside the taxing area).
Each question is a stand-alone, it is not necessary to vote on all of them, or to vote the same way on them, obviously. Each option is to be considered on its own merit. The actual wording of the ballot questions can be found at www.townofpalisade.org under ‘Notice of Election.’
Local concerns such as the number of stores allowed, hours of operation, permitted location of retail, manufacturing, testing or cultivation facilities, imposition of local transaction fees or taxes,and signage design are to be addressed by ordinance if and when the individual measures are passed by vote.
The reason these types of issues are not included in the ballot language is because another ballot initiative would then be required to change any of the decisions. By dealing with the local concerns by means of adopting new town ordinances, regulations can be much more flexible to citizen input and operational realities. There is no reason to enact the ordinances before the vote is taken either, since they would only apply if the questions were approved.
Some other commonly asked questions are:
How did the sale of retail marijuana arrive on the ballot again?
According to Town Administrator Rich Sales, Palisade’s Board of Trustees decided to place the questions on the current ballot because they were informed by a citizen committee that they (the committee) intended to go through the process to have the question(s) on the ballot with or without the Town’s approval. With the proper number of legally vetted signatures, citizens have the right and the power to do so.
Considering how close the vote on a similar question was in 2012, and after discussion at public meetings over spring and summer, and obtaining advice from Town Attorney Ed Sands, the Trustees decided to propose the questions themselves. While they believe that citizens should decide the outcome of the questions, Trustees preferred to be in charge of the actual language of the ballot questions. If the citizen committee had brought the questions to the ballot, the committee would have had control over wording of the ballot questions. Trustees wanted to retain the right to decide the ballot language.
At the August 9 meeting of the Board of Trustees, they agreed to invoke a six-month moratorium on the ballot question outcome in order to write regulations that were in the town’s best interest with regard to location, number of stores, hours of operation, service fees or charges, signage and other locally important issues. No marijuana will be cultivated, processed, tested or sold, no matter what the outcome of the ballot questions, until the moratorium has been lifted by Trustees.
What is the moratorium for? How does it affect the ballot questions?
The six-month moratorium was agreed upon by Trustees at the August 9 meeting in order to give themselves time to discuss and consult with citizens, receive input from the Town Attorney, and decide on the ordinances to be enforced in the Town of Palisade. Keep in mind, this procedure applies only if the ballot measure(s) pass.
This is also the reason that questions like how many stores to license, what zoning will allow sales, cultivation, etc. should not be decided by the ballot measure itself. If these questions are addressed in the language of the ballot questions, then they will not be flexible in response to citizen input and actual operation. The moratorium gives the Trustees time to hold hearings requesting citizen input at public meetings, and will allow for more flexibility in tailoring ordinances that reflect community desires.
Subjects that can be addressed and discussed during the moratorium period include but are not limited to: the number of and location of retail locations within Palisade, what graphics and information would be allowed on the signage for the business, what local fees and/or taxes would be imposed, hours of operation, and where marijuana would be allowed to be grown. Manufacturing or testing facilities also involve similar considerations.
Issues regarding marijuana cultivation techniques, potency, contaminants, packaging and labeling and many, many others are addressed by state regulations. The industry, although still in infancy, is very highly regulated by the state. State law regarding the production and sale of marijuana can be found at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/enforcement/marijuanaenforcement.
How much revenue can the Town actually expect to collect from approving the sale of recreational marijuana in Palisade?
Much of the argument in favor of approving the sale of retail marijuana relates to the amount of revenue that the Town of Palisade can reasonably expect to receive from such sales. Regardless of personal feelings about legalization of marijuana, the State of Colorado has seen fit to do so, and when doing so, also established a process of licensing and taxing the new industry. According to figures put out by the State of Colorado in July of 2016, the total state revenue collected from marijuana taxes in the current year was $13.2 million, up 30% from the initial year that figures were tabulated. License and fee revenue for the current year were slightly over $9 million, also up almost 30% from the previous year.
Local revenues would depend on taxes levied in addition to any local transaction or service fees that were enacted, also a decision for the moratorium period. It is estimated from collections reported in DeBeque, Silt and Rifle that revenues could be as high as $300,000 per year to Palisade’s General Fund. It could be spent in any way that the Board of Trustees decides, the same as with other revenue sources. Citizen input and involvement could certainly influence the way the revenues are spent, and it could be a continual process, depending on how ordinances are written. Considering that the current annual budget for the Town of Palisade depends of revenues of $3.5 – $4 million, another $300,000 annually is about a 10% increase, not an insignificant amount.
An informational meeting was held by the Town of Palisade for town residents on Wednesday evening, September 1, at the Community Center. Any material, pro or con, that a citizen wanted to submit regarding marijuana for the informational meeting/website is available online (without edit) at www.townofpalisade.org.