The Cortez City Council just said no Tuesday night, Sept. 11, to a license for what would have been a new recreational-marijuana dispensary in the city.
Following a lengthy public hearing at which a dozen citizens – not all of them city residents – voiced concerns about having another retail marijuana outlet in town, Councilor Gary Noyes made a motion to deny a license for NuVue Pharma, LLC, which would have been located on Patton Street on the eastern outskirts of the city.
NuVue is owned by Dr. Malik M. Hasan of Pueblo, Colo.
Bruce Burkett, a pastor with Lighthouse Baptist Church in Cortez, said he believed it was the wishes of the majority of city residents not to have another marijuana dispensary open up. He said, “From the start, it’s been obvious that [marijuana] is a gateway drug” and said levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, have been rising while levels of CBD, which has medicinal benefits, have been reduced to 0.1 percent.
Burkett linked marijuana to increases in crime, drugged driving, driving fatalities, homelessness and teen drug use across Colorado.
He said the Bible speaks against the use of mind-altering pharmaceuticals, although the term used is “sorcery.”
City resident Shari Noyes asked the council, “Where’s your limit? Where do you draw the line?” regarding the number of recreational cannabis dispensaries within city limits.
Likewise, Kathleen Tarr, who said she had moved to Cortez from Los Angeles “to get away from what’s coming here,” asked whether the city had any limits on either pot shops or liquor stores. When she was told it does not, she said she was shocked.
Mayor Karen Sheek said the number of cannabis dispensaries is somewhat limited by the city’s requirement that none of them can be within 1500 feet of a school, day-care center, or other marijuana facility.
Realtor Terry McCabe said she had been working with NuVue for the past six months and the owners had been extremely professional and would “bring a touch of class to what’s already a legal use in our city.”
But Charlotte Jones, who said she was born in Cortez, commented, “You can class up anything. You can put a prom dress on a prostitute on the corner. . . or a suit on a bank robber. . .” but the underlying truth was the same. “There’s no way to class up marijuana and drug abuse and alcoholism,” she said.
Some citizens brought up the fact that NuVue is being sued by a group of investors in Pueblo County. According to the Pueblo Chieftain, the plaintiffs want their $1.25 million investment back because they hadn’t realized that one of the terms of investing in the business would be extensive background disclosures on their spouses.
Attorney Kelly McCabe, representing NuVue, told the council the lawsuit has no validity, adding, “Anybody in the United States can bring a lawsuit.” He said the litigation “has no application to this particular license application.”
The city also received a half-dozen letters opposing the dispensary, including one from Steve Chappell, although it did not state whether it was Chappell the former Montezuma County commissioner or his son, who is currently running for the commission.
Following the public hearing, Councilor Jill Carlson noted that the council by law cannot deny a license on religious grounds, because of societal problems allegedly caused by marijuana, or based on speculation that the operation might cause traffic, noise, or vandalism problems. Instead, she noted, the council can consider the “reasonable requirements of the neighborhood,” the desires of adult inhabitants, or the character of the applicants.
Sheek agreed that the council is operating under legal constraints, although, she told the audience, “in private conversations many of us probably feel the way you feel.” She said she did have concerns about the requirements of the neighborhood because all the city’s other marijuana dispensaries are in areas that are basically commercial in nature. This one, she said, would be located in an area where there are many private residences, although the zoning allows for commercial uses.
Gary Noyes then made a motion to deny the license, and the council voted 7 to 0 to do.
By Gail Binkly