Nederland task force finds common ground between marijuana and backyard chickens

The implementation of Amendment 64 continues to unfold throughout the state. Lafayette placed a temporary ban on retail and cultivation-based marijuana businesses, but Nederland is trying to do the exact opposite. Last week, the town's Board of Trustees met to begin discussions about regulating marijuana prior to the completion of the Amendment 64 Task Force's official recommendations. The outcome would make Nederland the first U.S. town to regulate pot since prohibition.

The board comprises seven members, including Mayor Joe Gierlach and Peter Fiori, liaison to the Nederland Sustainability Advisory Board. At the meeting, members decided to create a task force that would include seven members and up to three voting alternates. As of this writing, names of the task force members have yet to be released, but Fiori, who will chair the group, said he expects to make them public "in the next day or two."

"We've got six members, and we're still looking for a seventh member, and we've got one, if not two, alternates, and I'm in the process of interviewing another," he says.

Once the task force is selected, subsequent meetings will be open to the public. The first task force session is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, at 7 p.m., but that could change, Fiori says. He expects it to be a basic meet-and-greet among task force members, as well as an informational session.

"We're going to have a town administrator come and refresh us on Sunshine laws, and aligning our goals and the four goals" -- building/planning, zoning, licensing and taxing -- "the mayor tasked us to do," he says, adding that the group will be adhering strictly to Amendment 64 guidelines.

Among the difficulties in the town's regulatory efforts are the various zoning laws around town, says Gierlach. He emphasizes the need for public comment surrounding those issues.

"We're looking for community input, especially for topics around zoning and building codes," he says. "We want to talk to our community members between now and July and have open meetings where we can bring residents in and we can have conversations."

He thinks the zoning questions will pivot on definitions, as did another issue recently faced by the town: backyard chickens.

"If you define it as a pet, certain parts of the code are out -- you can't kill your pets," Gierlach says. "But if you define them as livestock, other parts of the code are out."

Similarly, Nederland's pot regulations will depend on how officials designate marijuana: house plant or agriculture.

"Let's say, for example, that we don't allow agriculture in the central district zone in Nederland, but you can have house plants," he says. "It is similar to the backyard-hens ordinance -- and our hen ordinance affected three different chapters in our code. So we would assume that this industry would affect more than one area of the code."

Continue to read more about Nederland's Marijuana Task Force  

Nederland's official -- and highly unusual -- Board of Trustees photo.
Nederland's official -- and highly unusual -- Board of Trustees photo.

Although the Amendment 64 Task Force had its final meeting in February, Fiori says he has yet to read the official recommendations passed on to the general assembly, including the task force's suggestion that out-of-state customers be allowed to purchase recreational marijuana.

"I can't comment on that," he says. "But I don't see why we'd do anything differently than what we do with alcohol and tobacco."

Earlier in February, an Amendment 64 Shadow Task Force put out a "citizens' initiative" that argued for the immediate regulation of marijuana establishments in Nederland, since waiting for the state to proceed would essentially be defying the will of the people.

Fiori says he hasn't read that document, either, and won't until it has been submitted through the proper legislative channels.

"The will of the people is not being ignored, but it's a process to get things onto the ballot," he says. "I haven't seen that initiative, nor will I see it until it's gone through the official process. As I understand it, and it's all rumor, there's some good verbiage in it. They're trying to circumvent the legislative process in Nederland."

As the Nederland Marijuana Task Force begins work next week, the members will initially focus on the process of public input, an issue that needs to be addressed, according to Fiori. "Right now, a lot of people seem to think that we're going to be making decisions and voting on this. We're not," he said. The task force will only be responsible for passing recommendations on to the Board of Trustees.

Regardless of the potential for the regulation process to be drawn out in Nederland, Fiori stresses that the town will remain in step with the state.

"We're not going to get ahead of the state process," he said. "We have no desire to provoke the feds."

The Board of Trustees meets tonight at 7 p.m. in the Nederland Community Center, but it will not be addressing the task force. The meeting will be open to public comment on non-agenda items.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana ordinance to make Nederland first U.S. city to regulate pot since its prohibition?"

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