After community complaints, joint citizen action expands dialogue and leads city council to renew a cannabis farm’s license in Colorado
In the beginning of August, Humanitas360 visited High Valley Farms in Colorado in order to learn more about the cannabis industry and sustainable methods to grow the plant for recreational and medical use. During the visit, the team talked with Jordan Lewis, owner and founder of the farm, about the challenge that he was facing due to community complaints concerning a smell being released from the greenhouses. The issue with the odor was threatening the farm not to get its license renewed. According to Jordan, he understood his neighbors’ concerns and he was working to solve the issue, but the time given to him would perhaps not be enough – he had until September 23, which would be about 4 months.
During the talk with Jordan, Humanitas360’s president, Patrícia Villela Marino, recognized the opportunity of expanding the dialogue between him and the community, inviting the public to reconsider the fate that they would give the farm. In the process, Buzz Patton, a respected local leader, spoke with Patrícia and decided to act. He soon went to visit High Valley Farms and invited the city commissioners to do the same before voting. Patton also wrote a letter to the community encouraging Lewis to write one as well.
Humanitas360 also made a video with Jordan, in which he briefly told the farm’s journey and addressed the communities’ concerns. Patrícia took the opportunity to write a letter, persuading the public to see the deep effects that their decision would have beyond their area. The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News both published the text in their op-eds the day of the voting (September 23rd).
With 4 votes in favor and 1 against, city commissioners decided to renew the farm’s license for another year, with the condition that the odor problem does not happen again. Below, watch the video of the city council decision:
“Working with Patrícia Villela Marino and Humanitas360 was a wonderful experience. They understood the challenges that I was facing here in Colorado and set out to help. Through public outreach to the community and conversations with key decision makers in the government, they were able to help effect understanding of a local issue with widespread implications. They had the vision to realize that the decisions and conversations taking place on a local level, will eventually affect policy and social issues in a worldwide arena. This vision and grassroots awareness is just one of the many ways that Humantias360 has demonstrated its ability to create awareness and foster change for causes that matter,” said Jordan.
The following is Patrícia’s letter that was published on the newspapers.
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 São Paulo for respite in Pitkin County. Last month I visited High Valley Farms, a marijuana greenhouse in Basalt. I was surprised at their 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-hours visit, there was no obvious smell outside of the facility but I understand the frustration of the neighboring community. Lewis even expressed regret for not providing them 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 like 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 non-violent 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 involves 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 like Lewis aren’t provided sufficient time to work out kinks.
If 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 inspiring the world.
Patrícia Villela Marino
São Paulo, Brazil