Jefferson County has resisted marijuana businesses for years -- and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Several months before Jeffco's current moratorium is set to expire, the county's Marijuana Task Force has issued a 134-page report arguing that cannabis sales should be permanently banned. The document and more below.
The task force was created to offer recommendations to Jeffco's board of county commissioners in advance of the February 1, 2015 expiration of its current moratorium, which went into effect in July 2013. We've included a full list of its members below. They include longtime drug warrior Tom Gorman, head of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, plus the Marijuana Industry Group's Michael Elliott and folks representing business interests (Evergreen Chamber of Commerce CEO Lin Browning), government (Lakewood City Councilwoman Ramey Johnson), the medical community (Dr. Mark Johnson of Jefferson County Public Health) and law enforcement (retired police officer Robert Cantwell).
Readers don't need to read the entire document to determine the task force's conclusion, as seen in this passage placed near the top of the report:
The Jefferson County Marijuana Task Force, after considering available evidence, recommends that the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners permanently prohibit marijuana establishments within unincorporated Jefferson County. The task force finds that condoning and licensing marijuana establishments is not consistent with the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Jefferson County. The task force recommends that the Board of County Commissioners adopt the following ordinance:
PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORITY GRANTED BY SECTION 16(5)(F) OF ARTICLE XVIII OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF COLORADO, THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF JEFFERSON PROHIBITS THE OPERATION OF MARIJUANA CULTIVATION FACILITIES, MARIJUANA PRODUCT MANUFACTURING FACILITIES, MARIJUANA TESTING FACILITIES, AND RETAIL MARIJUANA STORES WITHIN UNINCORPORATED JEFFERSON COUNTY, COLORADO.
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The arguments supporting this decision are many and varied. Among them is the assertion that while marijuana sales would generate additional revenue for the county, the costs would far outweigh the benefits.
Two formulas attempt to calculate the amount of pot-related revenues, with predictions of $312,116.00 and $416,250.00, respectively. But these funds would likely be offset by "numerous costs that have been identified related to the retail marijuana establishments," the report states. Another excerpt:
The first is regulations and enforcement to assure that the businesses are operating within the rules set forth by Jefferson County. Denver is projecting $5 million in taxes; however, their budget includes $3.5 million to hire 21 employees to regulate the businesses. That is not including the costs related to the numerous citizen complaints about marijuana that Denver law enforcement responds to on a regular basis. Colorado Springs, Aurora and Denver all have special marijuana teams that are fulltime handling marijuana issues within their jurisdiction. It is probable that the revenue Jefferson County could receive from marijuana sales will not cover the cost of licensing, regulations and enforcement since a third is pre-designated to Open Space and Roadway.
Eventually, the greatest cost to Jefferson County will be societal costs. If the medical marijuana commercialization experience can be used to project what will happen with recreational marijuana, then Jefferson County will likely see:
• More impaired drivers • More traffic fatalities • More suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement in the middle and high schools • Greater use among the youth and college-age • Increased marijuana-related emergency room visits • Increased marijuana-related hospitalizations • Increased marijuana ingestions by children under 12 • Increased marijuana-related exposures for children 0 to 5 • Increased diversion of marijuana from the "legal" market to the illegal market, requiring law enforcement resources • Increased marijuana-related pet poisoningMarijuana Industry Group's Michael Elliott didn't win the day in Jefferson County.
That's not all. The report also includes a roster of "possible societal costs," such as:
• Student truancy • School drop-out • Classroom disruptions • Increased high-risk behavior by youth • Increased treatment for marijuana addiction • Increased mental health issues • Increased crime related to being under the influence
The authors of the report acknowledge that "the above costs are difficult to project accurately. However, if alcohol and tobacco use can be a forecaster for what to expect with marijuana, then the revenue generated from marijuana will cover less than 15 percent of societal cost. Revenue from alcohol covers only about 10 percent of the overall alcohol-related cost to society ($185 billion). Revenue from tobacco covers only about 12 percent of the tobacco-related cost to society ($200 billion). That is not a good investment and called by some 'blindside' economics."
Whether this last passage means the task force will next recommend that alcohol and tobacco also be banned in Jefferson County is unclear. But there appears to be little doubt that Jeffco's powers-that-be won't be putting out the welcome mat for ganjapreneurs.
Here's the report, followed by the list of task force members.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.