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Commissioners propose new marijuana grow regulations

WALSENBURG— Commissioner Max Vezzani pulled a surprise out of his pocket toward the end of Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting, by proposing new draft marijuana grow regulations for unincorporated Huerfano County land. The commissioners had just reluctantly approved a conditional use permit to Pop’s Farm (this isn’t your father’s farm) for a marijuana grow operation out on County Road 650. Pop’s Farm will be located on a 35-acre parcel of land, with no guaranteed access to water. Phil Cummings of Pop’s Farm said they could not get a five year guarantee on water anywhere, but were currently drilling a well, and appear to have good flow. After Cummings thanked the commissioners and left, Vezzani then said he had concerns about the number of grow operations trying to establish themselves in the county, with County Road 650 getting the lion’s share of proposed marijuana farms. Though these grows are not illegal on these small plots, Vezzani said these 35-acre ranchettes are primarily meant for families who want to enjoy

rural living, and these people may not want a commercial warehouse in close proximity. Vezzani then proposed the county change how they regulate the approval of marijuana grows in unincorporated Huerfano county. He proposes changing the minimum property size to 320 acres, or not have a residence within a half mile. Alternatively, if there is a residence within a half mile, and its owners agree to such a facility, it could be approved. He would add a provision allowing a maximum of six such facilities to be allowed in county land. Vezzani again stressed this was an opening position, and one that was up for discussion. And discussion there was. Lonnie Brown of Planning and Zoning, and Steve Channel and David Bobian of the county land use office were in the audience, and they brought up key points on the topic, including the most contentious, water. Several of the pot grows already approved do not have guaranteed water, and without water, the farms may fail. Ideas were kicked around. One was, rather than limiting the number of acres, requiring proof of water guaranteed for five years. Another idea considered was if there were a large number of applications for permits, to give preference to those with better water rights, or to use a lottery system. Vezzani likened this to all the wind tower proposals the county had several years ago. “You can build all the towers you want, but without a power purchase agreement, it’s not going anywhere.” A question was asked if this might shut out poorer people in the county from trying to open a pot grow, and Vezzani noted the grows already approved are from people outside the county “from up north.” Limiting the number of grows to just six was also questioned, and Vezzani answered six was just a starting point. Channel noted there are close to six already with what has been approved or pending. When asked when he wanted the moratorium to kick in, Vezzani glanced at the clock and said, “Today. Eleven twenty am.” Public hearings on the proposed change to ordinance have yet to be scheduled. To be clear, those who already have applications in to the land use office and have paid their fees are in under the wire.