By David Long
It’s a major bummer for some, but a drug-free high for opponents.
On Friday, July 10, Montezuma County filed a complaint in District Court seeking a temporary injunction against three men associated with what has been billed as “the 32nd annual Colorado Invitational Bong-a-thon.”
Perhaps in response, organizers posted on one of their Facebook pages, “Yeah, were not going to Montezuma. We didnt need one there either, but we are courteous enough to ask for one.”
The competitive marijuana-smoking festival was scheduled for July 31-Aug.1 at a site near Stoner on Highway 145 between Dolores and Rico.
A date for a hearing on the injunction had not been set, but if granted, the measure would provide law enforcement with the legal muscle to shut down the smoke-off, which has nearby landowners up in arms and county officials concerned about the safety and welfare of both neighbors and participants.
Highly publicized on Facebook and various websites, the Bong-a-thon is expected to attract more than 1,000 revelers to engage in individual and team smoking contests, trip out on music and camp under the stars. It was held in Park County for five years, but organizers decided to pull out this year after they felt the county had become unfriendly to their event.
On June 29, the Montezuma County commissioners rejected an application for a high-impact permit for the fest, saying it had been received too late to go through the normal permitting process.
However, organizers had initially vowed to hold the event anyway, with one – Chris Jetter – maintaining the permit was only needed for amplified music and another – Frank McDonald – saying the get-together was actually his wedding celebration and therefore couldn’t be stopped. (McDonald, who bills himself as mayor of Stoner, has for years been trying to establish a marijuana lounge/resort in the same area, but his involvement with the Bong-a-thon is unclear.)
The injunction is sought against Jetter, McDonald and Ted Clark, the actual owner of the property just off Highway 145 at County Road 38.5, although the county’s complaint states, “It is unknown whether he is an active participant in the organization of the event or whether he has any knowledge of the event.”
The complaint says the injunction is necessary because penalties for violating the county’s land-use code “are inadequate to prevent the harm of having this large event without first obtaining a permit.”
The complaint says, “The proposed event is unpermitted, and exceeds lawful uses of the property under the Montezuma County Land Use Code. The proposed event constitutes a commercial activity and a special event as defined. The permitting process considers health, safety, and welfare concerns. Without the permit, the County is unable to substantiate whether the event meets requirements for traffic safety, food and health, portable toilets, law enforcement, trash removal, fire mitigation, and other impacts addressed in the Montezuma Land Use Code.”
In an accompanying affidavit, Planning Director LeeAnn Milligan explained why the permit was rejected. She said the first time the Planning Department had been contacted regarding the Bong-a-thon was on May 29, when Jetter asked about a high-impact permit. Milligan emailed him a permit application and other information, she said in the affidavit, and informed him “of the late timing of the application process.” She advised him to contact the Colorado Department of Transportation about access off the state highway.
Jetter emailed her an event summary on June 1, Milligan said, and then contacted her on June 12 to discuss the event.
“I told Mr. Jetter that we had not received any application information from him which made it impossible to proceed,” she stated in the affidavit. “Mr. Jetter became very angry and aggressive and demanded something be done.”
Jetter sent her an incomplete application on June 14, she said, and subsequent submittals would not have met deadlines needed for the permit to be considered by the Planning Commission and for notice for public hearings.
Milligan in her affidavit also provided a list of threshold standards that would have been exceeded by the event, including traffic, parking, solid waste, fire protection, noise, odors, and more – all of which meant the event needed a permit.
Milligan said she spoke with McDonald on July 2 and he stated they would have their event despite the commissioners’ rejection of the permit.
“There has been no further contact with Mr. Jetter or Mr. McDonald since that time,” Milligan stated in the affidavit.
As late as the afternoon of July 10, the Bong-a-thon’s Facebook page was assuring enthusiasts the event would still take place, but seemed to equivocate about its location, in one post saying the site would be announced later but was two-and-a-half hours south of Denver. A poll on the page had earlier asked participants to vote between Stoner and an unspecified site in Pueblo.
Numerous posts lambasted the Montezuma County commissioners for denying the permit application.
“We Don’t Need No Stinkin Permits ! ! !” said one. “BIG Thank You to Frank McDonald and the rest of the crew putting this thing together. It’s more like a full time job year to year. Now if the Haters would just get the hell out of the way and let us Free Americans enjoy ourselves in peace, the world would be a much nicer place for all of us. My vote is for Franks place in Stoner, Co. ! !”