Paonia residents will decide if they want to allow retail marijuana facilities in their town during a special election in November.
In 2010 Paonia voters chose to ban all commercial medical marijuana businesses from their community.
Tuesday night the town board of trustees decided on the ballot language for the special election.
The council was split on the decision. Mayor Neal Schwieterman broke the tie with a yes vote.
Schwieterman said the board has the power to ban retail marijuana facilities but he’s glad voters will decide instead.
"The last election, where the medical marijuana retail establishments were banned from town, lost by 16 votes, which is .94 percent of our electorate," he said. "I don’t know how to vote representing this community...because it’s so close to 50 percent. I couldn’t venture a guess. I’ve always advocated for putting it on the ballot so the voters can decide."
The ballot will ask people if they want to allow the following four types of establishments: retail marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing, testing, and stores in Paonia. The ballot question will be all or nothing – either all four types will be allowed or banned.
Trustee Charles Stewart said the ballot language comes right out of Colorado’s voter-approved Amendment 64. Stewart called the wording of the ballot question deceptive.
"People need to understand that if this passes there is no legal prohibition for cultivation facilities within Paonia," he said. "There is no legal prohibition against production manufacturing facilities. And, there is no prohibition against testing facilities. The only thing this board could do is regulate those businesses."
Stewart along with Trustees Suzanne Watson and David Bradford voted against the ordinance which called for the special election. Amber Klienman, Eric Goold and Ross King voted for it.
"I have a mind that yes we will impose fees, licenses, [and] taxes," King said. "I am not of the mind to condemn this industry to gloom and doom that I keep hearing people suggesting that it is going to have. I see a lot of people in this room that I know [that] they use marijuana. I don’t think that they are not law abiding citizens. I don’t know why everybody assumes this is going to be the worst thing that ever happened to our community."
Constantine Hirschfeld came to the meeting to voice his opinion on the issue.
"I could not understand why when we voted down the medical marijuana stores here why we want to have retail stores here," Hirschfeld said.
He said he will vote against the measure because he thinks marijuana should not be legal.
"Marijuana users say that it is not addictive but part of the taxes [are] going to go for rehab centers," Hirschfeld said. "And, as far I’m concerned, [this] is my own opinion, if they need rehab then they don’t need the marijuana. Let ‘em die as far as I’m concerned."
Parts of the meeting also got heated. Trustee Eric Goold said he wanted it on the record that the board was threatened by a man in the audience. The man later clarified that he was not threatening the board just letting them know voters had the power not to reelect them.
Margot Richardson also gave her thoughts on the ballot question.
"What I’d like to see is for us to start small with just retail marijuana sales in town," Richardson said. "We know that pot is already grown in the region [and] that we’re well known for it and that is not going to stop. It’s a part of our economy. I feel like it’s more consistent and honest to have legal retail sales in town."
The special election will be held on November 4 in conjunction with the general election. Registered voters will receive a mail ballot.