Divisions surface on county’s marijuana task force

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By Ramsey Scott

Members of Jeffco’s marijuana task force are divided not only on the effects of pot use but also on whether studies available about recreational marijuana are valid.

Those divisions surfaced during the task force’s meeting on June 9, when members went back and forth on the validity of diverging studies showing the impacts of marijuana use. The competing data involved everything from impaired driving to effects on teenagers’ IQs.  

The 14-member task force is charged with recommending to the county commissioners whether Jeffco should allow retail pot sales in unincorporated areas.

Member Jordan Wellington, a lawyer who helped write much of Colorado’s law on sales of recreational marijuana, suggested that task force members should tour the growing operations of Strainwise Dispensaries, owned by member Erin Logan. 

Yet Robert Cantwell, a retired law enforcement officer who headed the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said such a tour should be balanced with a hospital visit to see patients admitted after using marijuana. 

“I don’t agree with you, to be honest. I think to expose ourselves to the industry that we’re here to try and determine what Jefferson County should do, it may have the tendency to sway somebody that shouldn’t be swayed,” Cantwell said. 

At one point Wellington had been set to explain Colorado’s retail marijuana regulations, but he said it might not be worth his trouble if members weren’t interested in learning about the industry. 

“My personal opinion is, we’ve spent enough time discussing the pros and cons,” said Jeanie Rossillon, director of Jeffco’s Department of Development and Transportation, who’s helping to coordinate the group. “We need to start focusing on specific impacts on Jefferson County, like revenue, what impacts and what the cost of those might be.”

Rossillon said the task force’s goal is to provide the county commissioners a recommendation and the data to back it up by the end of August. Given the split, Rossillon said there will most likely be two recommendations, one in favor of legalizing retail sales and one opposed. 

“There’s a lot of diverse views on the board, and I think we’re still in process of being focused on the mission,” said member Tom Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, who opposes legalization. “The first thing I hope is when we cite information that we make sure it’s credible and accurate. That there’s no spin. We just give facts as we know them and not our own little take on them. To have meaningful dialogue, you have to have accurate information.”

The task force is set to meet again June 23. It was formed to report on the potential impacts, both positive and negative, that could come from legalizing retail sales in unincorporated parts of the county. 

As part of Amendment 64, which legalized the use and sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado, local governments can ban retail sales and grow operations within their boundaries.