By Matt Hoffer
Good politics involves compromise. Freedom is not free; it requires tolerance.
The recent marijuana policy conversation puts two sides with valid arguments against each other. There are people against marijuana having a visible presence in town in order to insulate their children from what they view to be a gateway drug and to keep undesirable elements from moving into Bayfield. On the other side there are people who view marijuana as a growing industry that will bring more good paying jobs and tax revenue into town.
The layout of Bayfield precludes, by state law, nearly all of the town from licensing a dispensary because of the proximity to schools and churches. This means even if the town permits dispensaries there is really nowhere to put one. Even as a staunch marijuana advocate, I must concede that given the political disposition of the community and the town's layout, a dispensary doesn't fit.
There is a middle ground that allows the surrounding area to participate in the marijuana industry while keeping it invisible in the town. If Bayfield permits covert or invisible cultivation in the surrounding area, the town can capitalize off of the marijuana industry while preserving its existing character. Much of the case against marijuana businesses center around dispensaries which are retail locations. Marijuana grows are covert by design.
Maintaining the ban on dispensaries while allowing cultivation on the surrounding agricultural land allows county land owners to choose how to best use their land. The grows will have employees who will frequent Bayfield's businesses, stimulating the town's economy.
In a county with large amounts of agricultural land, using that land for cultivation makes the most sense. Without the oil and gas industry there would be little economic activity in the area. When the area around Bayfield does well, so too does the town. If the grows are invisible it should be the right of the landowners to decide.
The people against marijuana must concede it is not possible to prohibit its use due to Colorado law and these laws are not going to change because they are supported by the majority of the population.
There were times in history when people were persecuted for their religious beliefs. If we agree about the sanctity of religious freedom, we must allow the consumption of dried flowers in the privacy of one's own home. Freedom means being tolerant of our neighbor's differing beliefs and cultures. Freedom of speech and religion are what make America great and these values require tolerance of others.
Matt Hoffer is a county resident who lives near Bayfield.