Sheriff looks to mitigate what he expects will be negative impacts of legalized recreational marijuana

Thursday, December 31, 2020
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For the past few months, Stillwater County Sheriff Chip Kem has been planning for the arrival of legalized recreational marijuana and what his office — and the county — can do to keep the negative impacts of the new laws to a minimum.

In a letter to the Stillwater County Commissioners dated Nov. 4, Kem stated that he believes the county needs to be proactive in addressing the issue based on his “firm belief” that there will be negative impacts on Stillwater County citizen’s safety and property.

“Studies across the country have shown this to be the case, through increases in property crimes, thefts, violent crimes, traffic accidents and traffic fatalities,” Kem stated in his letter.

Kem specifically requests that the commission do the following:

“I am requesting that you consider drafting and enacting a county ordinance to prohibit the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, and retail marijuana stores within the unincorporated boundaries of Stillwater County.

This ordinance will not prevent the lawful possession or use of marijuana or infringe on the rights allowed under the new law to individuals. Rather, it will help reduce the potential negative impact associated with the marijuana production indus try.

I have previously provided you with two sample ordinances that were passed by counties in Colorado after marijuana was legalized in that state. It is interesting to note that the crime rate increase in both of those counties has been lower than the other counties in the state.”

Kem also suggested that the commissioners approach the Columbus City Council about passing a similar ordinance.

Kem copied Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde and Columbus City Attorney Ryan Addis on the letter.

The city of Columbus has done some preliminary research on the matter.

Kem has also prepared his own office for the arrival of new laws. Specifically, he is currently training an additional deputy as a Drug Recognition Expert, as well as purchasing a new K-9.

When asked what steps the county has taken to this end, Stillwater County Commissioner Mark Crago said the legal department is working on it “to make sure this is done correctly if it is acted on” and said there is definitely a desire on the county’s part in working on an ordinance.

Commissioner Tyrel Hamilton had similar thoughts, saying the new law is an “extensive bill.”

“In brief discussions about this, we want to wait and see what the legislature does with the bills in the upcoming session so that we don’t pass something that could be outdated after the session is over,” said Hamilton.