WALSENBURG — Earlier this year the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department announced to local government entities they will establish an inspection program under state statutes for marijuana facilities in the two county region. The City of Walsenburg had questioned the authority of the health department to take on the task and include a fee schedule in their original letter. It was an exercise in due diligence as the two entities communicated over the past week to make their positions clear to each other. Walsenburg City Administrator Dave Johnston directed City Attorney Dan Hyatt to investigate and clarify the issue. Hyatt wrote to the district’s health department interim director Kimberly Gonzales March 18, and a response came back to the city on Tuesday, March 24. Hyatt’s letter said in part, “The city of Walsenburg received a letter dated February 27, 2015 from the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department (“District”) regarding marijuana establishments and the apparent intent of the District to
license marijuana establishments located within the jurisdiction of the city of Walsenburg. I am writing to request clarification of this letter. The city requests clarification of the legal authority granting the District authority to license marijuana establishments in general and specifically marijuana establishments within the local jurisdiction of the city of Walsenburg”. Gonzales wrote to Hyatt saying the health department did not mean for their original letter to sound as if they intended to ‘license’ marijuana facilities. Her letter said, in part, “I apologize for the mis- wording, the Las Animas Huerfano Counties District Health Department will not be licensing Marijuana Facilities, as this is done through the State of Colorado and the Department of Revenue.” Gonzales clarified in her letter that the health department will be conducting health and sanitary audits/inspections of any and all marijuana facilities. These inspections are done to reduce any product contamination which will benefit the licensees and consumers. The health department is entitled to do such inspections on its own, or in cooperation with the State Department of Health. In addition, the health department will be working with the state department and the state board in all matters pertaining to public health, water quality, air quality and all matters pertaining to solid waste and hazardous material. A health and sanitary inspection will cost $255 a year, a plan review will costs $150 and any additional time spent with a marijuana facility will be an additional rate of $45 an hour.” In his response back to city administration, Hyatt said the letter from Gonzales made it clear the health department wasn’t attempting to ‘license’ marijuana facilities, which had been the city’s main concern. The communications between the health department and the city underscore the many details that must be interpreted between local government and quasi-government agencies and state statutes regarding the complicated Colorado marijuana laws.