Approximately 50 community members gathered at Majestic View Church on Oct. 1 to discuss the possible pitfalls of allowing marijuana businesses in the town of Kiowa.
The meeting was sponsored by a group called Neighbors for a Small Town Kiowa, a newly formed group of concerned citizens dedicated to spreading information about Ballot Issues 2B and 2C. If passed, 2B would allow marijuana and marijuana-related businesses to operate in the town of Kiowa, and 2C would authorize a special tax on marijuana sales.
Citizens who attended the meeting, along with Elbert County Commissioner Chris Richardson and Sheriff Tim Norton, believe that allowing marijuana business of any kind in Kiowa would be disastrous for town residents.
“This needs to be defeated,” said Norton. “We don't need that out here in Elbert County. It's going to spread our resources thin, and will bring an increase in traffic, mental health issues, thefts. And Kiowa doesn't have a contract for law enforcement right now, so we would end up having to handle everything that comes along with it.”
All registered voters in Kiowa received a voter guide from the town that includes arguments made by proponents and opponents of Ballot Issue 2C, laying out the pros and cons of a special 12% tax on marijuana that would go to the town budget.
Comments for the proposal include the claim that revenue raised could be used to help support Kiowa schools, and that studies show legalizing marijuana appears to have little to no effect on the number of violent and property crimes.
“This is an opportunity to have a legal industry provide a massive increase to a very thin budget,” the notice reads. “The tax would allow Kiowa to bring back the police department and fund needed repairs and maintenance in this town.”
Comments against Ballot Issue 2C question whether the revenue brought in would be enough to cover the added expenses of a police department; the potential of increased traffic accidents, vagrancies and burglaries; and concerns that a dispensary owner would become the biggest contributor to town taxes.
“If a single marijuana shop brings in $150,000 in a year, that business will have the loudest voice in town. Residents' concerns will likely be ignored in favor of what one single business wants,” reads the notice.
Briana Kelly grew up in Kiowa, and moved with her husband to the town in 2008. She has done extensive research into the effects of marijuana on small towns, and said the numbers she's finding are terrifying.
“There was a Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Report that showed marijuana related traffic deaths increased 66% in the four years after Colorado legalized marijuana,” said Kelly. She noted Kiowa's location farther east than other dispensaried, and said “I believe people will be coming into Kiowa just to buy their weed and leave again. That will bring a lot of traffic through our little town.”
Kelly said she loves her hometown, and her resistance isn't about people who use marijuana.
“I don't think everyone who smokes weed in a crazy person, that is not in any way that I'm against the use of marijuana,” said Kelly. “I'm just against a dispensary being in Kiowa.”
Literature distributed at the meeting claimed that a dispensary in the neighborhood would increase marijuana use by teenagers, increase the number of traffic deaths caused by users, increase a need for emergency medical services, as well as an increase in property crimes and homelesness. Concerned citizens have scheduled more meetings in the weeks leading up to the election, and information can be found on the Facebook page Neighbors for a Small Town Kiowa.
John Smith, a concerned citizen and pastor with Majestic View Church, echoed Kelly's sentiment that they are not against marijuana use, but are concerned about the effects of a dispensary in town.
“As far as we're concerned, this is not an issue of whether people should be smoking marijuana or not,” said Smith. “We are not arguing that. It's legal in the state. I love all people, and I came here to care for all people, whether they use marijuana or not. But I hate to see what this would do in our community. This is about the safety of our families and our community.”
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