Commissioners weigh in on commercial marijuana in El Paso County
El Paso County Commissioners approved an ordinance on Tuesday to prohibit cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail marijuana stores in unincorporated El Paso County. The county commissioners cannot ban the use and possession of marijuana, only growing, manufacturing and retail sales.
Four of the commissioners voted in favor of the ordinance, Peggy Littleton voted against it.
The ordinance states, "by making marijuana more readily available in the community and facilitiating the recreational use of marijuana, presents a threat to the health and education of El Paso County's children, to the safety of the workplace and the travelling public and to the public health, safety and welfare as a whole."
Amendment 64 passed by a narrow margin of 10 votes in November's election in El Paso County. However, it did not pass among unincorporated voters.
"In my district alone 66,725 [people] voted on this particular issue. It failed 59 percent to 40 percent. In unincorporated county you know, it also failed," said District One Commission Darryl Glenn.
Jo McGuire addressed the commissioners at Tuesday's meeting and spoke in favor of the ordinance. McGuire said commercial marijuana companies will try to attract teens to their products much like tobacco companies have done.
"We have to be strong, take a strong stance so that we can make sure we are protecting particularly the children in the community who are going to be attracted," said McGuire.
But Lono Oh'ala owns Eagles Nest Wellness Center in an unincorporated part of El Paso County. He said this drug is safest in the hands of companies that will regulate it and that can only happen if the ordinance failed. Otherwise, Oh'ala said the drug will be regulated by the black market.
"There are a lot of drug cartels that operate and distribute marijuana in this town through gangs," said Oh'ala.
Mark Slaugh was one of several at the meeting that urged the commissioners to slow down and wait for direction from the Governor's task force.
"We're looking for up to the Governor's task force for leadership on the issue as we move forward. So even though communities are allowed the option to ban retails tores, I don't think they have enough information since the first meeting was yesterday to really determine an effective and educated response to this new amendment," Slaugh.
The ordinance isn't final yet. The commissioners will vote again January 15.
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