Letter: Solace in the stink

In light of the upcoming meeting between the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners and Silverpeak Apothecary’s High Valley Farms to determine the renewal of the facility’s marijuana-cultivation license, I’d like to outline a few thoughts on the subject. As a member of the Roaring Fork Valley’s agricultural industry, I foresee several benefits to renewing the cultivation license.

The dollars: State tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales in 2014 exceeded $44 million. As stated in Amendment 64, the first $40 million of tax revenue will go to funding our state’s educational system. According to Time magazine, “This year, the Colorado Department of Public Health awarded $9 million in grants for medical marijuana research, funded with revenue from state-licensed pot stores. They will be among the first U.S. clinical trials to look into the effectiveness of marijuana for childhood epilepsy, irritable bowel disease, cancer pain, (post-traumatic stress disorder) and Parkinson’s disease.” Large production facilities such as High Valley Farms will be needed to keep up with demand, continue growing the industry and continue generating tax revenue from a recreational activity. Why not grow the industry on the Western Slope, where Pitkin County will be collecting a 15 percent excise tax on the wholesale of product produced at High Valley Farms? Tax dollars could be used to invest back into all forms of agriculture in Pitkin County, aiding the growth of the Roaring Fork Valley’s agricultural output.

Growth of agricultural talent: Some of the brightest horticulturalists I know got their start or at least have worked in the marijuana industry. Skills learned through marijuana cultivation such as tissue culturing, integrated pest management, cation-exchange functions and soil microbiology can be translated to a variety of agricultural crops. A need exists, which I see most vital to the growth of our valley’s local food system, to encourage and make available opportunities for young horticulturalists to gain experience in the agricultural industry, especially opportunities that provide full-time employment and compensation. If we want more local farms growing our food, we need to grow more farmers.

Odors: The odor issue can be resolved. Our marijuana industry was born in the basements and closets of Colorado’s most civilly disobedient, where they were forced to develop methods to conceal their presence. Odor-mitigation technologies take time to adapt and scale for large commercial operations, but it can be done.

In the long run, a bit of patience for our state’s agricultural experiment could prove more benefit than harm for our local agricultural economy, our state’s education system and the progress of health care technologies.

Jimmy Dula

Owner, Colorado Soil Systems LLC, Basalt