Commissioners Decide ‘Nope’ on Dope in Prowers County

Despite the passage of the statewide amendment 64 that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado, Prowers County Commissioners were adamant in their desire to keep marijuana out of the community. After conferring with Sheriff Jim Faull and county attorney John Lefferdink, on Thursday, December 13, the commissioners requested Lefferdink draw up an ordinance which stresses the illegality of the drug based on federal laws and prohibits its possession in the county for purposes other than legal, medical use.

Amendment 64 has been signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper following the November General Election where it passed on a statewide vote. But the commissioners are basing their decision on the voter turnout in the county in which the amendment was defeated by a 60% to 40% margin with 2,826 votes against and 1,953 in favor. A similar county-wide vote years ago defeated a similar amendment.

Commissioner Gene Millbrand said a recent Colorado Communities Incorporated meeting provided some insights and problems that will result as a consequence of the amendment. Sheriff Jim Faull said sheriff’s meetings on the legal ramifications also provided as many questions as they did answers. Attorney Lefferdink said the commissioners have the ability to opt out of the state vote, but they are restricted from using a moratorium as was done several years ago to prohibit the availability of marijuana in the community. “It’s an in or out situation,” he informed the commissioners, explaining that they could enact a temporary prohibition for recreational use until October of next year. Another option mentioned by Millbrand was a referred measure, but that would entail another county-wide vote. Millbrand stated, “We just had our vote several weeks ago when this community voted against amendment 64 and I don’t see the need to spend money when we’ve already heard their desires on the issue.”

Sheriff Faull said the legalities also become complex when dealing with real situations, referring to possession of more than an ounce of the drug. “Will we have to give back one ounce, but keep the other if someone is carrying two ounces on their person?” he asked. Spotting an ability-impaired driver, and testing them for the drug will present a problem on determining blood levels of the drug in a persons system. Would a person be fired from their job for smoking on a Friday afternoon after work, but they test positive on Monday even after the effects have worn off? If a house is in a drug-free zone in Lamar across from a school, can a homeowner light up a joint on their front porch and still be legal? The commissioners stated that a county employee who tested positive would lose their job, based on the federal laws that now make possession illegal. Some colleges or other federally funded organizations could lose their support if they’re found in violation of these rulings, the commissioners stated.

Millbrand said the general voting public wasn’t given all the necessary information regarding the use of revenue from the sales tax generated from legalization. “People read that passage of amendment 64 would mean BEST schools would receive $40M in taxes in Colorado, but the numbers didn’t add up when you take a look at them.” He said the figure was closer to $2M which would be difficult to achieve in any case. Lefferdink said he’d have the ordinance prepared for the commissioner’s review in early January.

Correction: Information provided by Prowers County Sheriff Jim Faull

The county can only opt out for marijuana commercial manufacturing (growing) and commercial sale.  It will still be legal to possess 1oz. and have six plants of marijuana per person and consume marijuana in private.  The county cannot over ride the possession and consumption of marijuana.

By Russ Baldwin


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