Metro declines marijuana resolution
After numerous testimonies from the public about the marijuana industry in the local community, the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors rejected a previously discussed resolution that would have stated their opposition to any more marijuana-related businesses in Pueblo West.
The board voted 3-1 to reject the resolution, with Director Lew Quigley in favor. Director Jerry Martin was absent.
Board members had previously discussed that most of Pueblo County’s marijuana (both retail and medical) shops are located in Pueblo West, and that perhaps local residents don’t want to have more or be viewed as “the place” for marijuana.
However, about a dozen people – business owners, landlords and more – showed up at the March 11 meeting to tell the Board of Directors their feelings about the proposed resolution, and the Directors took their comments to heart.
“I’m an owner already here and I’d like to see the demand met by those already existing,” said Randy Russell of Pueblo West.
“But I’d like the ability to expand my business. I currently own one building and lease two buildings. To be able to expand my business to meet the demand, I need another business license. I think if you allow the owners that are already here to build at their pace and open up new facilities to meet the demand, it would be a slow progressions that wouldn’t upset people in Pueblo West or Pueblo County.”
The intent of the resolution was to give to the Pueblo County Commissioners, stating opposition to more licenses or growth of the marijuana business in Pueblo West. Directors said they understood that they had no authority over what licenses are approved, but said the resolution would have simply stated an opinion for the County Commissioners to take into consideration.
After listening to much testimony, Directors said they no longer agreed with the intent of the resolution.
“I understand what the initial intent of the Board was,” said Director Mike French. “But I heard everything you’ve said tonight, and it’s legal in the state of Colorado – we have to learn to live with it, whether we agree with it or not. At this point, I’d have to say I would be opposed to this resolution.”
Multiple people who addressed the board said the marijuana outlets have brought jobs, taxes and people to Pueblo West, and told directors they would be hindering the community by stating an opposition to the industry.
“My family’s company owns property on Enterprise Drive and it sat vacant for almost three years,” said Todd Pasquin of Pueblo West.
“Commercial and industrial real estate has been in a deep freeze, and now a legitimate opportunity comes along. I personally feel we’re at a moment where this industry is, very much like the liquor industry was at the end of prohibition. Imagine if the town of Golden had said no to Coors! I think on a smaller scale, that’s what is before you now.”
Pasquin said he leased his business to Russell a month ago and noted that he is an “upstanding businessman” and his intention is to build a first-class operation that will employ 30-40 people.
“I hope you’ll consider the folks like us who have been struggling so hard to pay our taxes on property sitting empty. We could use your help in getting the economy going again,” Pasquin said.
Lori Allen, an agent with Remax, talked to Directors about the real estate standpoint. She said she manages two buildings in Pueblo West and is currently a landlord to a dispensary who is in good standing.
“Placing restrictions limits my ability to lease to specific types of properties and my potential earnings in the future,” she said. “Also, we have to remember that not all owners will allow marijuana establishments. It’s a personal preference, so that in itself is a built-in restriction.”
Director Lew Quigley, who voted in favor of the resolution, noted that he had mixed emotions about the subject. He said he understands how business people are struggling, but also noted the resolution would not be binding but would stand only to encourage the County Commissioners to put themselves in the shoes of Pueblo West while making decisions.
“The sheriff spoke to us about a month ago and was asked whether they had many calls surrounding the marijuana business, and he said no. There haven’t been any complaints or calls,” said Director Christine McCarthy. “I’m still of the opinion that it’s just a nice, quiet industry. I certainly hate to support a resolution that limits any type of business, because where does it stop? Does it apply to liquor? Hamburger joints?”
Director Bill Vickers said he felt the resolution was first discussed because Pueblo West “didn’t want to be known as the ‘pot capitol’ of Colorado, but we don’t have this authority. As people we can say we’re against or for it, but as a board we don’t have the authority to try and curtail it.”