Town board considers recreational marijuana sales at study session
By Rudy Hemmann
The Berthoud Town Board held a nearly three-and-one-half-hour study session on Tuesday evening to gather information on a wide range of topics.
The session began with four presentations concerning the legalization of the sale and use of recreational marijuana within the town limits.
The first speaker at the podium was Meg Sanders, who introduced herself and her co-presenter, David Kleiber of Steamboat Springs, Colo. Kleiber stated he has nearly 20 years’ experience as a law enforcement officer in Anchorage, Alaska, and in Steamboat Springs. He is currently self-employed as a private investigator (Kleiber Investigations) and does security consulting for marijuana operations across the country. Sanders is the owner of several marijuana retail and grow operations in Colorado.
Sanders gave the business side of the presentation. She stated that, by her calculation, Berthoud is on track to receive $115,000 from the transaction fees collected from the sale of medical marijuana. (The town collects a $3 fee on each transaction.)
She also noted Longmont recently passed an ordinance legalizing recreational marijuana. The fact there is a neighboring community which has approved recreational marijuana can only lead to more sales tax leakage, according to Sanders, since people wishing to use marijuana recreationally will go to Longmont to purchase their marijuana products.
Sanders contended studies conducted by her company indicate individuals who come to Berthoud to purchase medical marijuana also frequent other town businesses such as Hayes Market and Ace Hardware.
Kleiber related Steamboat Springs residents had concerns regarding recreational marijuana use. Their concerns generally fell into one of three categories; what will be the effect on the under-age population, questions regarding driving while under the influence of marijuana, and the possibility of an increase in crime.
He stated studies conducted in the state indicate the use of marijuana among under-age users is declining. He noted the way in which data is collected and reported by state officials concerning drug-related vehicle accidents leaves gaps in the data which cannot be reconciled and therefore is unreliable. With regard to the contention that legalizing recreational marijuana will lead to increased crime, Kleiber reported that is not the case.
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith noted he accesses data available through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report available from the federal government. The report states Colorado is the state with the highest marijuana usage in the nation.
He pointed out since 2014 the number of inmates in the county jail has been steadily increasing. He attributed the increase to the transient population that has moved into the county. According to Smith, when these inmates are asked why they moved to Colorado they freely admit it is due to the availability of marijuana. He also stated the black market for marijuana is alive and well in the county.
Town Attorney Greg Bell stated the ideal situation would be for the trustees to draft the ordinance which would govern the use of legalized recreational marijuana in town and then place the measure on the November ballot to let the voters decide if they want to legalize recreational marijuana.
Berthoud resident Ashley Dinger gave a presentation regarding the town possibly receiving a carousel to be (eventually) owned and operated by the town.
Dinger’s grandmother had a passion for restoring old carousels. The devices are made of intricate, hand-carved wood. The mechanisms which drive the carousels are mechanical.
The town would need to invest in a building to house the carousel. Dinger estimated if the carousel were set up in a good location and enough traffic was generated it could easily generate $500,000 and up. She shared pictures and a short video of the carousel in action. The trustees were quite taken with the device and directed town staff to pursue this idea of bringing the carousel to Berthoud.
Dinger stated she had a building on her property where the carousel could be stored until the town is ready for it.
Curt Freese gave the board an update on the progress made in revisions to the development code. The updates are done, according to Freese. He stated the final draft will be presented to the planning commission and the board will see it after planning commission approval.
The goal was to make the code more user friendly with subdivision design being the central focus of what was done.
Town Administrator Mike Hart gave an update on the progress made with regard to the search for a new town administrator, along with an overview of the process from here on out.
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