MOFFAT — Several Moffat residents met Monday to protest the proximity of marijuana grows to their homes and businesses, grows they say they were never notified about prior to the onset of cultivation.
They complain the skunky smell of cannabis and dust created by the grows is diminishing their ability to do business and/or enjoy quality of life in their own residences. They also object the water dedicated to the grows will eventually deprive town residents of an adequate water supply.
“I want water samples before they move forward with water wells,” for cannabis growers, Moffat resident Robert Tafoya proposed.
According to state statues governing zoning, notice must be given to residents before any zoning changes are made. Even if the land is zoned agricultural and say alfalfa has traditionally been grown there, marijuana is not considered legally to be an agricultural product.
The state database for licensed medical and retail grows in Colorado (found at the Marijuana Enforcement Division site, https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/enforcement/med-licensed-facilities) should list grows authorized by the Moffat town government, but shows no listings for the town.
According to a list of current growers provided by the county in May, only two possible grows are located in or near the town of Moffat. None of them are medical; only one medical grow exists in the county. And only medical grows are allowed by the county to cultivate more than 99 plants, according to current state law.
Typically, it would take the cultivation of more than 99 plants to create the odor problem being reported by residents.
Moffat residents submitted a petition bearing eight pages of signatures contesting the growing of marijuana within the city limits earlier this year. The town did not respond to the petition with a public meeting or by calling a special election as required by most towns, according to best practices.
To the best of their knowledge, the town has not passed any regulations or held public hearings on these regulations allowing grows in the town. State law requires such regulations be in place before licenses for the grows can be issued.
Conflicts of interest
Over the past two months the same residents also have protested the fact that certain members of the town board are growers or profit from growing cannabis. They object this creates a true conflict of interest when decisions are made by the town, because these individuals do not recuse themselves from voting as required by state statutes.
Conflict of interest laws read:
3. Transactions With Those One Supervises or Inspects. [C.R.S. 24-18-109(2)(b)]
A local government official or employee shall not:
“Engage in a substantial financial transaction for his private business purposes with a person whom he inspects or supervises in the course of his official duties.”
(If marijuana growers are regulated by the town, those also growing or working with other growers would be supervising them.)
4. Acts Benefitting Ones Business or Client. [C.R.S. 24-18-109-(2)(b)]
A local government official or employee shall not:
“Perform an official act directly and substantially affecting to its economic benefit a business or other undertaking in which he either has a substantial financial interest or is engaged as counsel, consultant, representative or agent.”
“Official act” is defined as including any “vote, decision, recommendation, approval, disapproval, or other action, including in action, which involves the use of discretionary authority.” [C.R.S. 24-18-102(7)]
This would forbid the type of activity the citizens maintain is occurring on the current board. Government officials are required by law to avoid even the appearance of a potential conflict of interest.
Citizens comment on board
practices, recent CORA requests
Moffat Mayor Patricia Reigel recently responded to a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request made Tafoya, granting him access to the documents. Riegel agreed to provide Tafoya with one page of ads for bids for construction, two pages of zoning information and the eight-page citizens' petition.
She also offered to have copied the necessary ordinances from the town’s code book, amounting to 52 pages. Tafoya objected to the delay in providing the documents and the failure of Reigel to list the actual document cost in her letter. The mayor says only that Tafoya must pay $17 an hour for the town’s time but does not specify how much time was spent in locating, copying the documents.
Currently Tafoya has a one-page document stating how the town is zoned but does not have an actual map based on a survey of the town. A former board member commented at the meeting that s/he saw the map about 11 years ago and believes it is in the possession of former town board member Melinda Myers or current town board member Ken Skoglund.
Citizens followed up on their complaints at a Moffat town meeting Monday, but details of the meeting were not available by press time. They expressed the desire to learn more about the town’s current regulations regarding marijuana.
According to a press release by Sheriff Dan Warwick in May, the town of Moffat apparently is not being patrolled by the marijuana code enforcement officer. “The Saguache Sheriff’s office and the town of Moffat does not have in place any contract for law enforcement services,” Warwick stated in his release.” At present the sheriff’s office bills the town for any services rendered within the town limits that “requires charges be filed or [takes] more than just a few minutes of time.”
Regulations set by the town would need to include a code enforcement officer if the town is legalizing marijuana grows within the city limits.