For the first time since Colorado voters legalized marijuana sales in 2012, Bayfield voters will be asked this November to decide if they want to have marijuana dispensaries within town limits.
The Bayfield Town Board has banned sales since the state law went into effect in 2014.
The board voted to put the question in front of town voters.
“I thought people should make the decision,” said Michelle Nelson Yost, a former town trustee who voted in favor on placing the question on the local ballot this year. “I hope the people come out and vote.”
If voters approve the measures, sales will be legal, and if voters turn them down, the ban will remain in place, likely for years, Bayfield Mayor Matt Salka said during a forum about marijuana sales earlier this year.
“I don’t want to do this again,” Salka said.
There are two questions about marijuana sales on the Bayfield ballot. One is Ballot Question 2B, which asks Bayfield voters for a YES or NO vote on the operating of marijuana stores, medical marijuana centers and manufacturing facilities.
Ballot Question 2C asks voters to vote for or against an occupation tax of up to $10 per transaction on marijuana sales, with the exact amount to be determined by town trustees. If approved by voters, town officials said the tax would likely be $3 per transaction, which is what the town of Mancos charges for each transaction in its three dispensaries.
The number of marijuana businesses in Bayfield would be capped at three, with a lottery system to be put into place if more than three applicants are interested in applying for a local license. There are reportedly several businesses and individuals looking at opening a marijuana business in Bayfield if voters approve the ballot question.
Jackie Morlan, a resident of Bayfield who asked the town board to reconsider the ban, said Bayfield needs tax revenue, and money from dispensaries could be used for parks, recreation and other amenities the town can’t currently afford.
David Black, a trustee on the town board, also has spoken publicly in favor of the town permitting legalized marijuana sales.
“I’m very pleased to see this reconsideration,” he said at a Town Board meeting in December.
In May, economics students at Fort Lewis College presented findings from a fiscal impact study that looked specifically at potential revenues and costs for the town. They did not study any further potential economic impacts, such as business profits or potential employment at dispensaries.
The students projected that one marijuana business could bring in between $100,000 and $200,000 in extra tax revenue for the town, with about $24,000 to $100,000 in increased costs for licensing, administrative costs and law enforcement.
A copy of the study is online at www.bayfieldgov.org.
A few residents have said that even if a pot shop opened in Bayfield, they are not sure many locals would go there because they would not want neighbors to see them going in.
While there are no registered groups opposing or promoting the measure, a group of residents is urging Bayfield residents to vote NO.
Banners reading “Vote no for marijuana ordinance 417” are going up on properties around town, said Anne Schrier, a resident of the Forest Lakes subdivision, who is lobbying against the measure.
“It’s just something I hate to see in a town that’s so family-oriented,” she said. “I hate to see our young kids get any worse into it (marijuana) than they are now.”
Schrier said she and other residents who live outside town limits are disappointed they can’t vote on the measure, because they consider themselves members of the larger Bayfield community.
“We have a nice little town here,” she said, noting the marijuana sales won’t bring in a vast amount of revenue to the town. “It’s not the pot of gold that everybody thinks it is.”