Commissioners approve pot moratorium

SAGUACHE — After months of discussion, Saguache County Commissioners approved a 120-day moratorium on the approval of new marijuana applications until the current regulations governing how the applications are processed can be reviewed.

Prior to approving the moratorium, commissioners also approved a measure that allows an additional 11 grow operations to continue their application process, which eventually will bring the total number of grows in the county to 40.

Citizen comment was not allowed at the meeting.

The grow application for Mammoth Farms came before the board prior to the moratorium discussion but was postponed, until the owner “gets his paperwork right.” The application will be reviewed at the Feb. 20 meeting.

Commissioner Jason Anderson said he heard two themes at the public meeting — things were moving too fast with land use so pausing would be a good thing and no one wants to punish the people who are doing it right. “How do we find the balance in between?” he asked.

Commissioner Ken Anderson said something definitely needs to be done with law enforcement and the illegal grows. J. Anderson said those growing legally are suffering from guilt by association because of the illegal grows. K. Anderson suggested that a bond needs to be issued for cultivation clean-up by growers to cover costs in the event the grow goes out of business. J. Anderson asked that the start date for the moratorium be extended from the meeting date to Feb. 15.

“We need to give folks who’ve invested a little more room,” he suggested. “We have tied our process to the state and [if we] abandon the state process now, that’s not equitable.”

“We have good regulations; we just need to tighten them up,” Land Use Administrator/County Co-Administrator Wendi Maez replied. “We’re not stopping them from applying.” County Attorney Ben Gibbons corrected Maez, noting that a moratorium means the county “is not accepting [marijuana-related] applications during that time, period.”

Commissioner Tim Lovato recommended the moratorium be in place 120 days, allowing those who have already applied to continue the process. Attorney Ben Gibbons reminded commissioners the moratorium could always be extended.

While no discussion took place on February 6 regarding what body would decide how the regulations will be adapted to current circumstances, commissioners had indicated earlier that the possibility of a task force was not off the table.