Questions and Answers: Lamar Council Candidates and Marijuana Forum

Drive thru, Drop-off Ballot Box

 

 

A Lamar City Council and Mayoral a seat and sales of recreational marijuana and its taxation were the two topics of discussion at a candidate’s forum held Wednesday evening, October 13that the Lamar City Council chambers.  The forum was streamed on the city’s website and broadcast live over KLMR radio.

Nick Lopez is running against incumbent Lamar Mayor, Kirk Crespin for a two-year term and Mike Bellomy is seeking a seat on the council from Ward 3, running against incumbents Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Gonzales where positions are open for one four-year term and for a two-year term.

Each candidate offered background information about themselves:  Crespin has been employed in a lending firm firms and several banks in Lamar while Nick Lopez stated he has been the manager of WHO Manufacturing since 2000.

Rodriguez has been employed in law enforcement following his schooling at Lamar Community College and the police academy and has been involved with volunteer firefighting and EMT response.  Joe Gonzales, has been on the city council for the past two years and is self-employed since 2009 at Gonzales Unlimited.  Mike Bellomy has extensive background in trucking, engine repair and oil field operations.

All candidates were in favor of the long-proposed by-pass and all stated their belief in personal choices regarding federal mask and potential vaccine mandates.  However, that was cautioned by several candidates over the risk of loss of federal funding to the community due to non-compliance.  Candidate Bellomy asked, “If the by-pass ever does go through, what happens to the two truck stops that we have on Main Street.”

Ballot Questions 2A and 2B regarding legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana occupied the second half of the two-hour forum.  Most of the pros and cons revolved around the right of personal choice, the potential tax revenue that could be realized by Lamar and potential social and health risks to customers and to the community.

Cindy Sovine, lobbying in favor of the ballot question and employed by the proposers of the questions, stated that marijuana use has been underway in Lamar since the passage of Proposition 64 in 2012, although a local ordinance has prohibited its sale for recreational purposes.  She added, the tax revenues derived from local sales will help keep the community free from federal mandates and hand-outs.  Sovine also noted the potential economic drain as local residents are driving to Bent County to make legal purchases as well as those residents from outlying states who travel to Colorado.  She added that legal oversight of grow and sales facilities makes marijuana one of the most regulated businesses in the country.

Former Lamar Mayor, Roger Stagner, offered his viewpoints in opposition to the legalized recreational sales, claiming Sovine’s tax revenue estimates were inflated given the figures for Bent County over the past two years.  Stagner argued that money was not the issue and told the audience to seek out independent information, specifically on the negative health impact on youthful or underage marijuana users, citing various universities and hospitals where studies have been made.  Stagner added that, “Money is a bad choice if that’s all what we’re looking for.”

“What happens to Colorado when these other border states start allowing marijuana sales,” Sovine was asked by Bev Haggard.  Sovine replied that those surrounding states, socially, may be the last holdouts in the country regarding recreational legalization and Colorado is still experiencing solid growth in the industry.

It should be noted that while customers from outlying states do drive to Colorado to make a purchase, it is illegal to transport marijuana out of the state.

Mayor Crespin reiterated the Lamar City Council is not taking a stand on the ballot questions and created a committee to review all aspects of the recreational availability, interviewing other similarly-sized communities in Colorado for their experiences, the plusses and minuses from legal sales.  He said if both ballot questions do pass on November 3rd, it would be about a year before commercial sales were open to the public after city ordinances were enacted to regulate the sales.

By Russ Baldwin

 

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyEmploymentFeaturedHealthLaw EnforcementPublic SafetyRecreation

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