SAGUACHE COUNTY— In a recent telephone exchange Eugene Farish, attorney for the town of Crestone and interim attorney for the town of Saguache, denies he did anything wrong by placing the ballot initiative for marijuana in Crestone as a single question.
The Crestone Town Board drafted its marijuana resolution as a one-question measure under the guidance of Farish. Now some Crestone residents fear that because the initiative was not a two-part question, the town could be open to litigation.
One resident commented that if the initiative that passed in April is ever deemed unconstitutional, the town would need to pay all the taxes collected so far back to shops now selling cannabis. At best, s/he said, the question needs to be rephrased and placed on a future ballot.
“You get crazy results if you separate the questions out,” Farish maintains, noting that several places in Colorado have taken initiatives to the polls using two questions to distinguish between costs for various county or city departments.
The problem in posing two questions, he claims, is that the approval of retail marijuana stores could pass but the tax might not, creating a legal limbo. “As long as you use TABOR language and include the correct dates, there is nothing wrong with it,” Farish said.
He points out that he has checked out the matter with the Colorado Municipal League (CML) attorneys as well as CIRSA, the insurance pool covering several Valley municipalities, also the Denver city attorney, and no one had a problem with it. “It may be controversial, but I don’t see where there is a problem,” he concluded.
Yet in other Colorado counties, such questions placed on the ballot are divided into two parts, as TABOR laws require and the single-question provision in the Colorado Constitution dictates. Municipalities and legal minds in other jurisdictions explain the one-question initiative is simply a safer way to proceed that is not open to court challenge. One consultant close to the judicial system advised that Crestone should at least ask the advice of a second attorney to avoid any potential problems.
This comes after a Valley resident reported that at least one attorney may be considering filing suit against the town of Crestone, challenging the marijuana tax.
The Town of Crestone has not yet commented on the matter.