Letter: Why the fate of High Valley Farms matters to the world | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Why the fate of High Valley Farms matters to the world

For nine years, my husband and I have traveled from our home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for respite in Pitkin County. Last month, I visited High Valley Farms, a marijuana greenhouse in Basalt. I was surprised at its meticulousness and professionalism.

I left hoping the vegetables my family consumes are grown with such care. So imagine my confusion when the owner of the facility, Jordan Lewis, told me his year-old greenhouse might have weeks to survive.

An odor is drifting from the farm to the nearby Holland Hills community. Residents there are concerned that their quality of life and property value may suffer. County commissioners gave Lewis until Sept. 23 — which at that time was four months — to get rid of the stench or risk losing the license that they granted him just a year ago.

During my two-hour visit, there was no obvious smell outside the facility, but I understand the frustration of the neighboring community. Lewis even expressed regret for not providing the community with a better understanding of the actions he is taking to fix the problem. This issue has little precedent, and many, including myself, believe he hasn’t been given adequate time to resolve it.

His dilemma represents one of the speed bumps Colorado has with implementing marijuana legalization. But the success of businesses such as Lewis’ have implications far beyond this county and country.

I founded Humanitas360, a Latin American-focused institute that empowers social entrepreneurs to improve laws. South American countries have broken criminal-justice systems with unbalanced drug laws. Government budgets balloon because of the over-criminalization of marijuana. Incarcerating nonviolent offenders often costs more than education.

H360 works to support innovative, evidence-based and restorative drug policies. We believe in prevention and information on positive and negative effects of cannabis use and abuse on health as basis for people’s choice.

When Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use, the world took notice. It’s at the forefront of adopting smart ideas that involve taxing cannabis and using the funds for schools and marijuana-education campaigns.

If this model succeeds, it’ll provoke change throughout the Americas. However, it cannot be given a fair chance if entrepreneurs such as Lewis aren’t provided sufficient time to work out kinks.

If the Pitkin County commissioners develop a solution that accommodates both Holland Hills and High Valley Farms, they wouldn’t simply be doing their jobs but perhaps would be inspiring the world.

Patricia Marino

Sao Paulo, Brazil