Friday, April 4, 2014

READY OR NOT NEBRASKA: Itty-bitty Sedgwick, Colorado welcomes recreational pot

Nebraska law enforcement knew it was inevitable. 

Nebraska marijuana tourists say it can’t come too quickly.

The arrival of a recreational marijuana outlet on the Nebraska/Colorado border appears to be just weeks away. 

On April 1st the citizens of Sedgwick, Colorado (or at least the 27 who voted yes in the tiny town) approved new taxes for wholesale and retail sales of marijuana.

The owner of Sedgwick Alternative Relief plans to drive to Denver Monday to file an application to expand his medical cannabis operation, including over-the-counter sales to any legal buyer who wants it. State regulators must act on the paperwork inside a 45 to 90 day window. Owner Mike Kollartis, recently received permission to operate at another location closer to Denver. He’s cleared the security background already and expects quick approval of the application.
Product on display at Sedgwick Alternative Relief
As NET News reported last summer, Nebraska law enforcement officials have been wary of the Sedgwick operation from the first day it opened. To date, there have been no reports linking the store to illegal sales. A larger concern is the legal sale to out-of-state residents who will try to bring it across the border illegally. 

“It’s going to be a problem,” Duell County Sheriff Adam Hayward told me in June.  “You’re going to see a lot more people from back east or up north pick it up and turn around because you know it shortens their drive time by four hours.”

The town of Sedgwick embraced being northeastern Colorado’s only pot outpost. Tax dollars from the current sales already enriched the municipal budget. 

On Tuesday voters approved a five dollar sales tax on individual pot purchases and additional surcharges on future bulk marijuana sales from the planned indoor pot-farming operation. Combined the taxes could add tens of thousands additional dollars to the Sedgwick treasury. 

Official tally from Sedgwick pot tax vote
Opponents to expanding marijuana were swamped at the polls. Only four of the 31 people who cast ballots voted against the new taxes.

The store manager estimates sales could average at $2000 a day. There is no reliable estimate of how much revenue will come from Nebraskans taking advantage of the neighbor’s relaxed laws. As of January 1st out-of-state visitors over the age of 21 can legally purchase and carry ¼ ounce at a time. Sedgwick is a three mile drive off I-80 and six miles from the border by the county roads south of Chappell, Nebraska. Last year I asked both the Nebraska State Patrol and the state's Attorney General if if would be useful to launch a public information campaign reminding residents that  using legally in Colorado didn't translate to bringing it back to Nebraska for private use. Both said they didn't consider that approach as useful.

The owners of the Sedgwick store are already planning ahead. Initially sales will continue in the double-wide trailer placed on a vacant Main Street lot. The building next door has already been purchased and plans in the works for its renovation into a combination grow-house and significantly expanded marijuana retail operation.