More than 100 residents crowded the front lawn of the Kiowa Town Hall the evening of July 8, settling under the trees with lawn chairs for a community meeting to discuss the possibility of a November ballot question allowing for the retail sale of marijuana in the town.
The Kiowa Board of Trustees held the meeting outside in anticipation of the large crowd that easily exceeded the 49-person capacity of the town hall.
Kiowa Mayor Jason Kerbs opened the forum with a brief statement expressing his opposition to any retail pot sales in Kiowa, and Pastor John Smith of Majestic View Church echoed the sentiment, warning of spiritual and moral dangers associated with pot.
Both received an enthusiastic applause from the majority of residents assembled, but not everyone agreed with keeping the measure off November's ballot. Richard Croisant, who has been vocal in support of the idea at earlier meetings of the Kiowa Board of Trustees, stood up in favor of a vote.
“Any of you who believe that this is not in our community at this time, you're mistaken. It's here. I pay $150 (for my) water bill every month. This is something that can help the town of Kiowa pay for that big white goddess up there on the hill that you can see for a hundred miles,” Croisant said, referring to the 210-foot water tower on the east side of town.
Kiowa's water and sewer system recently emerged from receivership on a $5.5 million loan for projects that were built in anticipation of development that has failed to materialize over the past nine years.
For Kiowa resident Rebecca Fernau, also a member of Majestic View Church, money is not a good enough reason to bring retail pot and the things that come with it to town.
“I'm that person that Pastor John talked about, having to repair the family because of the abuse of marijuana along with other drugs,” she said. “And there's not a water tower in this universe or a dollar sign that is worth the heart and mind of my baby girl.”
Colorado's Amendment 64 allows each county and each municipality the right to decide for itself whether to allow the retail sale of recreational marijuana within its boundaries.
Since Colorado voters approved the amendment in 2012, the Kiowa Board of Trustees has passed at least nine ordinances dealing with the state's marijuana laws. The regulations cover a range of issues, from growing marijuana in private residences to banning the use of commercial space to test, process or sell medical or recreational marijuana.
“The only reason that this community forum was suggested was simply to get input. There has been no decision even to put it on the ballot.” Town Attorney Corey Hoffman explained to the assembled residents. “As of now, the board has determined to prohibit it within the corporate boundaries.”
Other communities have taken similar positions regarding the sale of marijuana. The Elbert County commissioners passed a resolution in opposition to Amendment 64, and in Elizabeth, residents voted down a measure to permit medical marijuana dispensaries within the town in 2012.
John Doorman, a candidate for the District 2 county commissioner seat being vacated by Kurt Schlegel at the end of this year, said, “It (marijuana) doesn't belong here, but I'm happy that the folks up there are putting it to the people.”
According to election data released by the Colorado Secretary of State, Elbert County voters turned out 54 percent against the passage of Amendment 64.