Paonia Town Council Approves Moratorium on Commercial Marijuana

Sep 11, 2013

Credit Tom Wills/North Fork Merchant Herald

Though voters in Paonia last November approved Amendment 64the measure legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado - the Paonia Town Council last night approved a moratorium on all commercial marijuana activity within town limits, until the issue can be put to voters in November of next year. Towns and municipalities across the state have been grappling with whether to allow marijuana legalization, a right given to them by Amendment 64.

Mayor Neil Schwieterman read the details of the approved ordinance at Tuesday night's meeting. Schwieterman said the council’s decision stemmed from some recently vocal opposition to allowing the newly legalized marijuana industry into Paonia. 

"The town board has listened to comments on several occasions," said Schwieterman, "and as a result from those public meetings, requested the town staff to bring forward a proposed ordinance for a moratorium through the end of 2014."

That ordinance takes effect immediately, and expires at the end of December next year, though Paonia voters will get to have their say in November. The town agreed to develop a framework for regulating marijuana in the event the industry is voted in. The ordinance states those proposed regulations will have to be completed by September 21st of 2014. Meanwhile, the town still has the option of extending or revoking the moratorium before a vote takes place in November.

Last night’s meeting was yet again a full house, and though the council closed the issue to further public debate at the meeting, Schwieterman did read off summaries of letters submitted to the council about the issue, most of them expressing opposition.

One of the letters asked the council to opt out of all marijuana establishments, saying an election would create "deep wounds within the community" due to the divisiveness of the subject. Another said that while Paonia voters did approve Amendment 64, "two wrongs don't make a right," and she is still opposed.

That opposition also submitted news articles that they felt showed the harm that allowing legal marijuana in town could cause, including a High Country News essay from 1996 from a writer in Deadwood, South Dakota who felt her town had been ruined by the legalization of gambling.

A final decision by voters will have to wait until next year because of language in Amendment 64, which states that a local vote on whether to allow the industry or not has to take place during an even-numbered year.