New Castle not quite ready to try slice of Garfield County’s pot pie
January 14, 2019
Although always fishing for additional revenue streams to fund community projects, don't expect the sale of medical or recreational marijuana to catch on anytime soon in New Castle.
"I am out and about in the community quite a bit, and I hear time after time from people saying how wonderful it is that we don't have marijuana stores in New Castle," Mayor Art Riddile said. "A lot of these people are either grandparents or the parents of children being raised here in New Castle."
Neighboring Glenwood Springs allows both recreational and medical marijuana sales. And New Castle's neighbor to the west, Silt, does not allow the sale of medical marijuana but does allow recreational sales with a special-use permit.
Additionally, farther west along Interstate 70, recreational marijuana will hit a limited number of shelves in Rifle later this year, possibly as early as February. Rifle City Council passed an ordinance in November giving the green light to permitting the sale of recreational marijuana, so long as it takes place in the commercial area south of Interstate 70.
“… small communities that do have marijuana facilities and stores, really that becomes more of their identity, and I don’t want that to be our identity.” – New Castle Town Councilor Grady Hazelton
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New Castle remains one of the few stops along I-70 that does not allow the sale of either recreational or medical marijuana. And, by the sound of it, the town plans on keeping it that way.
"We basically took a wait-and-see attitude that we weren't going to jump in until we saw what happened elsewhere," New Castle Town Councilman Bruce Leland said. "The feedback that I have gotten with people who talk to me since then has been to thank us for that position."
Over six years ago, Garfield County voters supported Amendment 64 by a margin of 3,334 votes, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's website. Since then, the historically red county has grown increasingly green — so much so that, even if New Castle did pounce on a piece of the pot pie, the sales tax revenue generated would likely under whelm the small town's general fund and overshadow much of what the small community has built and promoted over the years, leaders say.
"I think it's going to be oversaturated, and I don't think that will be such a main revenue source for them," Town Councilman Grady Hazelton described of the growing marijuana market in communities like Parachute.
Hazelton, instead, honed in on the importance of maintaining New Castle's parks and trails, as well as continuing to promote and develop the small community's downtown.
"I have a strong feeling that small communities that do have marijuana facilities and stores, really that becomes more of their identity, and I don't want that to be our identity," Hazelton said.
While Riddile, Leland and Hazelton share similar sentiments as it pertains to the sale of marijuana in New Castle, the three also readily understand the small community's lack of revenue to do some of the things it wants.
"That's the million dollar question, for sure, and it's something we come up against quite often," Hazelton said of the town's ongoing tax revenue challenges.
"The town does have some very real financial needs right now," added Councilman Graham Riddile, the mayor's son.
"We've been working through a deficit, and we are getting close to balancing the budget, but we have a very real need there," Graham Riddile said. "To say if we had recreational or medical, or both, in New Castle that it would cure our financial load, I don't think that is true, personally."