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Marijuana Economic Feasibilities Discussed for Prowers County

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Several decades ago, a Doonesbury cartoon character, Zonker, stated about marijuana, “It may not be right or wrong, but it sure is against the law!” The passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado changed that aspect for the new state industry and members of the PEP board, Prowers Economic Prosperity, discussed how some communities have prospered economically when they taxed grow or sell operations that were allowed in their town.

Right now, such operations are prohibited in Prowers County. An ordinance stating that, other than for certified medical usage, marijuana cannot be sold or grown in Prowers County.  The ordinance stresses the illegality of the drug based on federal laws and prohibits its possession in the county for purposes other than legal, medical use. The ordinance was passed by the commissioners stemming from voting results from the November general election in 2012.  The commissioners based their decision on the voter turnout in the county in which the amendment to allow was defeated by a 60% to 40% margin with 2,826 votes against and 1,953 in favor.

On Tuesday, June 6, several PEP board members referenced discussions they have had with other communities in the state which have seen dramatic tax growth from the sale of marijuana in their towns. Lawrence Brase said he was in conversation with a Lamar resident who discussed tax revenue with a city administrator from Parachute, Colorado where $6M had been gained through taxes and they were anticipating $12M in tax revenue over the next year.

Jillane Hixson, a local farm owner added that she had visited Pueblo where a local grow operation is yielding as much as $6M per acre from the marijuana crop. “Farmers are seeing about $150 to $200 per acre for their wheat crop at this point and that’s an economic reality that should be considered,” she said.

Houssin Hourieh, Lamar Light Plant Superintendent, added that the utility bill from grow operations in Baca County can come in as high as $20,000 a month and another board member, Doug Thrall, said he’s heard of travelers from Kansas or Oklahoma stopping in to local stores once they hit Lamar, asking if pot is being sold here. “They tell them they have to travel further up the road, to Rocky Ford or at least Pueblo to make a purchase, but it’s on their minds as a destination site,” he said.

Dr. Linda Lujan, LCC President, suggested it would help to hold a public town hall meeting to discuss the issue, weighing in on the pros and cons of allowing local establishments for sales. “It’s an emotionally driven issue and we all have our opinions, but we need to hear from experts,” she suggested.

Other items on topic at the meeting included an update on roundtable meetings. PEP Executive Director, Eric Depperschmidt, said the housing group is looking into developing houses built on spec, perhaps finding financing for four or five to see how an interest on future development would work.  The next meeting is set for the SECED office on West Elm Street on Friday, June 16th at 10am.

Because of the July 4th holiday, the next PEP board meeting will be held on July 18th at noon at the Rodeway Cow Palace Inn.
By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureCity of LamarConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyElectionsFeaturedHistoryHot TopicsLaw EnforcementPublic SafetyTourismUtilities

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