Marijuana sales ban imposed in Mesa County

Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Retail marijuana outlets and growing operations have been banned in Mesa County under an ordinance approved by county commissioners.

The Grand Junction City Council has scheduled a public hearing and second reading for a similar ordinance banning marijuana operations within city limits. That meeting is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Grand Junction City Hall auditorium.

Mesa County commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of an ordinance prohibiting the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, product manufacturing and testing facilities and retail marijuana stores in unincorporated areas of the county.

The board heard public testimony both in opposition to and support of the ordinance.

Opponents claimed marijuana was essentially harmless, citing alcohol as a more dangerous substance. Supporters cited what they described as the health and social dangers of marijuana, particularly to the young.

Commissioner Steve Aquafresca said passage of the ordinance won’t impede the rights of adults to use marijuana as allowed by Amendment 64, a state constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters last fall. Rather, the county ordinance only prohibits marijuana growing and sales facilities.

“Mesa County citizens still have the right to use and possess small amounts of the product, and that will not change,” Aquafresca said. “Local governments only had an opt out provision in regards to commercial retail and growing operations.”

Aquafresca said his vote to approve the ordinance was based on his concern for the health and safety of young people. “Commercial retail outlets will mean more product out in the community and thereby more available to young people.”

In addition, law enforcement agencies recommended the commissioners institute the ban, he said.

Regarding the potential tax revenue from marijuana sales, Aquafresca said he considered that. He said he decided, though, “a bit of added revenue would not be worth the risk to our young people.”

If anything, Aquafresca said commercial marijuana operations could actually hurt business in Mesa County.

“(Colorado Gov. John) Hickenlooper has said that he believes that (commercial marijuana operations) will put a negative light on our communities and could turn away other economic development, and I kind of agree with him,” Aquafresca said.