SAGUACHE — Saguache County Commissioners and a handful of Saguache County Planning Commission (SCPC) members held a public hearing on proposed marijuana regulation changes Thursday, July 19, with a small crowd attending the hearing. Participants had a total of three minutes to speak, but each one attending was allowed to speak twice.
According to the ground rules laid down at the beginning of the meeting, only the regulations could be discussed; businesses and individuals could not be discussed. Most of the objections brought to the hearing included deviations from existing laws and the granting of variances. Those attending also stressed the importance of extending the current moratorium until adequate enforcement is in place and the variance question is answered by the state. As attendees pointed out, basically, without enforcement, the laws are useless. A discussion also was held on the performance bond requirement.
Baca Grande property owner Lisa Cyriacks opened with the observation that the proposed regulation changes had not been sent to the Crestone/Baca Planning Commission for review as has been the practice in the past. She asked commissioners and SCPC members to explain why this occurred.
Cyriacks further protested there are numerous conditional use permit (CUP) inconsistencies not addressed by the regulation changes. She also requested that a process be constructed for dealing with violations.
Moffat property owner
In an email sent prior to the hearing, Marty Lange of Moffat told Land Use Director Wendi Maez there are still items that have not been addressed in the proposed regulation changes.
“As with the regulations in the past, if new revised regulations (and even the old regulations) are not enforced, they will be useless,” Lange wrote. “If these regulations do not apply to the entire Saguache County, they’re also useless. How can we have countywide regulations when individual towns can make up their own rules and laws?
Cyriacks also emphasized the need to enforce existing state and county laws already on the books. Bill Case and one other person said that enforcement started with the Saguache County Planning Commission (SCPC) and the BoCC.
In her email to Maez, Lange also noted:
“The density issue…was not addressed. There is a new proposed regulation that marijuana grows have to be 2500 feet from each other. That’s still two grows within a mile, so there could be five marijuana operations within a 10-mile stretch of road. I believe that’s still too congested. If this remains unchanged, we will still have too many grows in any particular area. I am not opposed to alcohol, but I certainly wouldn’t want five distilleries within 10 miles of my home. The same applies to marijuana grows.
“Placing a cap on the amount of grows in Saguache County, which was not addressed. If we do not place a cap on the amount of grows in Saguache County, we will — once again — experience a huge influx of people coming into our county who care very little about the environment, or for the residents. I am an avid hike and I am disgusted with the amount of trash on the hiking trails that I use. This was not the case two years ago.
“Marijuana companies should, at the very least, carry liability insurance, which was not addressed. (I operated two businesses in my lifetime. In both cases, not only did I have to be bonded, I had to carry liability insurance before for my license was issued. With the disastrous Spring Creek fire, which was started by a heavy pot smoker and which is still not fully contained, you would think that liability insurance would be absolutely mandatory.
“Perhaps marijuana grows cannot get liability insurance because it is not federally legal? One would think that obtaining liability insurance would be a prerequisite for any company operating in Saguache County. If another fire disaster is started, we, as residents, have a right to be protected from any damage or loss to our properties.”
Villa Grove property owner
Villa Grove property owner Jesse LeBlanc presented the following portions of his longer statement to the county for consideration at the hearing.
“The marijuana regulations (existing and proposed) are useless unless the County ensures that they are fully enforced. Further, if the County cannot guarantee enforcement, the current moratorium should remain in effect until there is adequate enforcement in place. Lastly, the County needs to enhance the vetting process that it uses for CUP applicants because it cannot depend solely on the State’s vetting process.
“Examples: Two hundred plus illegal cultivations are reportedly in existence in Saguache County. There has been only one major drug bust in 2017 and one thus far in 2018. At this rate, it will take at least 200 years to clear the ounty of this criminal activity. If the County cannot adequately police illegal (black market) marijuana operations, then how can it be expected to adequately police legal marijuana operations?
“Regarding Article IV-A – Activities of Local Interest (marijuana regulations), the purpose of this regulation is to provide for growth in a manner that protects the characteristics of the community that its citizens’ value. Comment: The County is not following this section of the regulations because it ignores its citizens’ values. The complaints voiced in county meetings include noise, odors, crime, lights, traffic, decreased property values, etc., some of which are clearly against the existing laws.
“Article VIII – Approval Procedure
Article VIII (4.2) states: “The Land Use Administrator will schedule the application for the appropriate Board of Commissioners meeting agenda, and, if necessary, notify adjoining property owners and interested parties by certified return receipt mail.” Comments: Have these requirements ever been done before by the Land Use Administrator? If not, why?
“VIII.4.3 (Existing) - The board of commissioners will consider the application in a regular meeting. The Board will approve, approve with modifications, or deny the application in a timely manner. Comment: Why hasn’t this existing requirement been followed by the BoCC? Currently, only the Land Use Administrator has been approving (marijuana plant count) variances.
“Annual CUP Renewals: Will annual CUP renewals be required and if so, will any new regulations apply? This topic was discussed by the SCPC. Most were under the impression that an annual CUP renewal was going to be included in the new regulations. Also, requiring a performance bond for existing cultivations as part of the annual renewal should be required.”
Only a few growers chose to speak at the meeting. Those attending reported grower Diane Dunlap had some good points regarding variances.
Cancer survivor Brady Oman spoke about how well the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) inspected his operation. Some attendees found this statement problematic, since no MED license can be found for Oman. Owners require an Associated Key license, managers require a key license, and support staff require a Support license. Ground rules prevented any questioning of Oman on the matter.
Moffat Mayor Patricia Riegel, an unabashed proponent of retail marijuana for her community, also spoke out. Those in attendance found her statement difficult to understand and Commission Chair Jason Anderson had to reframe her comments.
Commissioners will discuss the comments at their July 31 meeting and consider the proposed regulations in August.