Medical marijuana grow irregularities questioned

By Teresa L. Benns
SAGUACHE COUNTY– Many local residents worried about the negative impact of both legal and illegal marijuana grows on the county’s tourism industry have complained to county officials about lax enforcement of marijuana laws but their concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
As visitors approach Saguache near mile marker 98, they are greeted by what appears to be marijuana grow in full view, tall plants swaying in the breeze. This in addition to marijuana-related eyesores previously featured in this publication, ranged along Highway 17 and in other locations.
Mention of the grow was made following a commissioners meeting Monday. A drive past the site revealed a suspect site with a greenhouse full of tall plants on the southeast side of U.S. 285, heading east-bound. The site appears to be located along Ewing Road near Keller Road in Moffat.
This grow site can be seen to consist of an RV, small section of fence, a shipping container, a black plastic storage tank (water?) and the greenhouse. The Marijuana Enforcement Division database does not list this location. The state’s hemp database has no listing for the grow either.
When contacted by a concerned citizen regarding the grow, County Administrator/Land Use Administrator Wendi Maez wrote Tuesday: “The location… is an approved medical marijuana variance location for a plant count of 75 plants.  
“Tags have been delivered by the code enforcement officer. I will direct James Knight or Wayne Clark to go by and inspect the location again.  
“Saguache County chose not to go with HB 17-1220, 12/24 plant count as was our choice, therefore Saguache County does allow, at this time, for a variance for more than 24 medical plants to be allowed on a parcel.”
Citizen comments returned to Maez regarding the grow included the following observations:
Article IV – Activities of Local Interest – Marijuana Regulations

IV-A.4 – Medical Marijuana
IV-A.4.4 – The growing, cultivation and processing of medical marijuana shall not be perceptible from the exterior of the primary residence or structure, including but not limited to: Common visual observation
Comment:  The greenhouse and the plants inside can be easily seen from US-285.
IV-A.4.4 – Enclosed Locked Structure allows for a structure that:
• Does not allow for the visibility of the interior from the outside
• Is secured for safety
• Is completely surrounded on all sides by a wall or fence
Comments:  Again, the greenhouse interior can be easily seen from U.S. 285. The greenhouse is not surrounded by a wall or fence.

IV-A.4.5 – No person may engage in Marijuana production in a manner that adversely affects the health or safety of the nearby property owner including, but not limited to:
• Having visibility of plants from the exterior of the structure(s) or any other common visual observation, including any form of signage
Comments: Again, the greenhouse interior can be easily seem from US-285

Article VIII – Variances from Regulations

VIII.4 – Approval Procedure
VIII.4.2 – The Land Use Administrator will schedule the application for the appropriate Board of Commissioners meeting agenda, and, if necessary, notify adjoining property owners and interested parties by certified return receipt mail.

VIII.4.3 - The Board of Commissioners will consider the application in a regular meeting.  The Board will approve, approve with modifications, or deny the application in a timely manner.
Comment:  Historically, only the land use administrator has been approving extended marijuana plant count variances. There has not been any recent variances (for an extended plant count) in which the adjoining property owners were notified. Further, no recent plant count variances were reviewed in a regular Board of Commissioner’s (BoCC) meeting nor have any been approves, approved with modification or denied by the BoCC. This can be easily verified by a review of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 BoCC meeting minutes that are available online.

Article XIV – Construction Permit
XIV.8.6.2 – Any Recreational Vehicle or Vehicle to be used as a permanent residence shall follow all mobile home regulations.
Comment: Does the RV used as the residence on this property meet the county’s permitting requirements (sewerage, water, etc.)? Is the adjacent shipping container permitted? 

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