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City Council reviews marijuana license renewals, stumbles over Peaceful Herbs

TRINIDAD — The Trinidad City Council weighed in on the city’s marijuana businesses at several points during their regular meeting on Tuesday evening, Sept. 15, taking one owner to task. Atanu Shawqmail, owner of Peaceful Herbs, came up for license renewal, which focused the council on two discrepancies in his business over the past year. The most glaring one was centered around the original issuance of the retail marijuana license from a year ago. According to city records, Shawqmail was issued a state license, and then was granted a city license under conditional approval. He purchased several pounds of marijuana even though he had not yet received the actual license from the city. This resulted in a visit by police and a warning letter from the city in December 2014. State marijuana authorities were notified. Their opinion was Shawqmail had not violated any state laws by purchasing the herb under the conditionally approved license. During the licensing renewal hearing, Shawqmail stated he had notified the police concerning the

marijuana purchase. When they arrived, they noted there were unsecured boxes of marijuana sitting in a hallway of the business building. However, the report the city council had, read differently. “The police report states that you didn’t call them, they came to see you,” council member Carol Bolton said. Council member Michelle Miles was concerned over how the purchase was made. “I own a liquor store and I could not order any liquor until I had my license in hand. The sellers would not even talk with me until I had the information they wanted. Even today, I have to give them my license number before they will take my order.” She then requested to see a copy of the manifest in order to identify who took and shipped the order. The second issue was one of signage. Peaceful Herbs has a peace sign on the roof of the business, and have several other signs advertising the business, all of which are in violation of the city’s sign code. Chris Kelly, a former building inspector for the city, worked with Peaceful Herbs on the signage. “The permit was signed off, this is not an issue (the marijuana purchase) with the state, and the sign is not an issue either,” said council member Liz Torres. “I appreciate your respect and honesty,” she said to Shawqmail. Miles pointed out that the initial sign permit was not approved. In the end the council voted 4-3 to approve the marijuana store license renewal application. Three other marijuana renewal applications for licenses were approved with a 7-0 vote for Trinidad’s Higher Calling U. They are for the store license, retail marijuana product manufacturing facility renewal, and a cultivation facility license. Also approved with a 7-0 vote, was a request for the modification of premises filed by Freedom Road Garden, a marijuana production and retail sales outlet. The plans originally called for the grow operation and the sales front to be located in the same building. However that makes for bad security, so David Snow, the owner of the business, decided to take advantage of an old brick manufacturing building on the property and turn that into the production area. During open forum, the council heard from Tom Murphy, a local TV producer, on the issue of increasing electric rates for residents in the city. He handed out a grassroots citizens’ petition to reduce electrical bills. The petition asks that Trinidad City Council pass an ordinance to commit all surcharge funds collected by the city for exports of retail marijuana, to reduce the amount of electrical utility charges required to be paid by qualifying electric utility customers of the city. The city currently charges $25 per pound on marijuana that is cultivated and exported. The petition asks that the ordinance setting up the surcharge be amended to commit all surcharge funds to reduce the electric rates customers currently pay the city’s electric provider, Arkansas River Power Authority. The council adjourned at 9:10 pm.