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Trinidad’s second largest industry lurches forward

TRINIDAD — Tuesday evening, the Trinidad City Council voiced concern over the possibility of a marijuana grow operation being charged Denver level rent in the small city of Trinidad, and what that might imply. The owner of High Sierra Naturals has set up operation along Freedom Road at the Trinidad Industrial Park in a warehouse that will eventually provide about 7,000 square feet of grow space and 1,000 square feet of office space. The operation will initially use only about 1,600 square feet of the grow space. The kicker is, the owner Harold Palmer, will be paying over $87,000 a month in rent, because Brandon Turner is floating the loans for the grow operation. That breaks down to around $54 per square foot, twice the amount charged for the same type of business in Denver. The high rent caused city council to want a closer look at how the LLC plans to do business. Turner has fronted $340,000 on the operation, and Palmer is contractually liable for the loans. The council discussed the issue in executive session. When they came back

to the regular meeting fifteen minutes later, city attorney Les Downs began questioning the application fee that all growers pay to the city of one dollar a square foot. So far the city has collected about $1,650 from High Sierra Naturals which covers the initial 1,600 square foot operation. Throughout the questioning, the business manager kept talking about bringing in the entire 7,000 square foot area for the grow, and even then, Downs voiced concern the rent was excessive. Council member Michelle Miles said more information was needed before she could reach a decision. “The way this looks, I’m going to need more time to study this, because there could be covert interests involved here. I can’t make a decision tonight.” The council voted 6-0, with council member Carol Bolton absent, to put the item into open recess and pick it up again at the Jan. 5th council meeting. Another thorn the city council had to deal with was a license application from LivWell VI, that issued from a change of ownership of the Peaceful Herbs dispensary on Santa Fe Trail. LivWell VI owns and operates around 19 recreational and 19 medical dispensaries, along with several grow operations around the state. Most of those operations are owned by either Beyond Broadway or Green Kiwi, two other entities of the LivWell operation. During questioning, city council focused on a violation that cost LivWell VI $150,000 in fines for making uninfused chocolate in a kitchen designed and licensed for the manufacture of infused edibles. The uninfused chocolates were given out at the Denver County fair in 2015. Several investigations of the incident by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, several outside attorneys, and the business itself all came to the conclusion that Beyond Broadway may or may not be guilty of making the chocolate in the licensed kitchen. But the fine was big enough to impact the corporate culture and resulted in the firing of the employees involved. The council voted 6-0 to close the public hearing and render a decision in 30 days. In other business, the council approved the purchase of Rice School for use as a new city police station. They also approved the establishment of the Trinidad Urban Renewal Authority. They adjourned at 9:30 p.m.