Prison Pot?

(A version of this column recently appeared in my hometown newspaper The Devils Lake Journal, published in Devils Lake, N.D.)

Shortly after I moved to Brush, Colo., to work for its newspaper, I began covering its city council meetings. At the time, the city was considering passing an ordinance that would allow residents to have chickens in their back yards. It held a community meeting to allow residents to voice their opinions. If I remember right about 20 people showed up for the meeting with several having very strong feelings both pro and con about chicks in yards, which the city ultimately decided not to allow. When the city council recently decided to hold meetings regarding whether or not to allow marijuana sales in Brush, nobody was quite sure how many people would show up and what they would say. It turns out nearly 100 people showed up at the first meeting, and more than 160 at the second one, and they had plenty to say.

A businessman wants to turn this former prison into a facility to cultivate and sell pot.

A businessman wants to turn this former prison into a facility to cultivate and sell pot.

Let me back up. First, marijuana is now legal in Colorado and also Washington. However, municipalities can pass their own rules on whether or not to allow it. Brush passed an ordinance last summer creating a three-year moratorium on any type of pot sales or cultivation, etc. About a month ago the city received a letter from a businessman who wanted to turn a former and now empty prison in Brush, which he purchased last spring, into a place to not only sell retail marijuana but to cultivate it. This request resulted in the meetings for citizens to voice their opinions about pot sales. At the first meeting, people packed the council chambers, filling up all of the available seats leaving people to stand against walls throughout the room, even those behind the council seating area. The second meeting attracted even more people. Most of the people who spoke were against it, and passionately so – not a surprise in a small, rural, mostly conservative community.

There are people in Brush who, in part because of the tax revenue pot sales can generate for communities, are for allowing this prison pot operation or retail marijuana sales. Unfortunately many of those who are for it are afraid to speak out publicity due to fears it will jeopardize their business or standing in the community. Some who are against sales scoff at this idea, but it’s true and it was actually confirmed at the second community meeting when a man stated he would boycott businesses who were for pot sales. It’s hard to believe in the year 2014, members in a small, American community would be afraid to voice their opinions about an issue – any issue -because of possible negative repercussions. I find it quite surprising.

My guess is that if marijuana were to become legal in North Dakota, which I don’t foresee happening any time soon, many in the Devils Lake community would probably feel the same way as many here in Brush do – they would be opposed to marijuana sales. However I’d like to think that community members in my hometown would feel they could freely voice their opinion, pro or con, without worry about their position or their business in the community.

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