Alva Review-Courier -

Medical marijuana, park upgrades discussed at Freedom Town Board meeting


Kathleen Lourde

Robert White spoke to the town board about his plan to apply for a commercial license to grow medical marijuana within town limits. His son, whose Lyme disease has been so debilitating that he missed 67 days of school this past year, has benefitted significantly from the use of CBD.

At the Town of Freedom's regularly scheduled board meeting last Friday, medical marijuana and ambitious plans for the park were discussed at length.

White Requests Commercial Zoning for Medical Marijuana Business

Freedom resident Robert White spoke at the town board meeting, presenting his plan to grow medical marijuana to help his son, who has Lyme disease, and to pay for his family's medical bills.

While the town has no regulations covering the brand-new industry, White plans to apply for a commercial license to forestall potential future problems affecting his business.

"You all know me and my kids," White said. "They play basketball. Anyone who watched him (son Tristan) at all knows his Lyme disease came back bad. He's hurting so much he can't even go to practice. Last year he missed 67 days of school."

CBD and THC have been the only things that have helped Tristan, White said. His son has a medical card to purchase medical marijuana. "His Lyme disease has gotten so bad that now the only thing he can do to get to practice and get to basketball is take meds, because he's hurting so much," White said.

White has been growing marijuana for a year – not commercially, but for his family's own medical use "as we can by law," he said, and nobody's smelled it or complained about it; White said he's been conscientious about hygiene and controlling odors.

Now he wants to grow it commercially to help pay his family's medical bills.

"Just last month cost me $1,600 for (the family's) medications for this Lyme disease," he said. "So this has become something we've become very passionate about, commercial growth. I have enough room in my garage that I can actually make an income and pay for my family's medications," but he's hoping the town will zone his property for commercial uses so that he can get his commercial license.

Everything he would be doing is legal, he emphasized; "nothing would be against the law." Growing medical marijuana in his garage would meet existing state regulations, such as being far enough away from a school, he said. It would benefit the town in that "it would be a very large sales tax that would come out of the commercial growth, so it would help the city," he said. The crop would be sold directly to dispensaries, not to the public, he said.

Right now, the state doesn't require White to have a commercial license – which, in turn, requires commercial zoning for his operations – "but when the Unity Bill comes out Aug. 3, it will be required," he said. "So I can do it now without you rezoning it, and then I have 12 months to rezone it. So when I reapply for my business license in 12 months, by then we'd have to have it rezoned."

Mayor Shad Brackin said they'd check with their city attorney about zoning issues. "I know there are a lot of things in the emergency bill that aren't being carried over to the final bill," Brackin said. "I didn't think it mattered what your zoning was."

If he lived on the other side of his street, White said, he wouldn't need a commercial license at all because he wouldn't be in town limits. Operations outside of town limits only fall under state regulations.

Because he's within town limits, if the town were to ever decide they didn't like his commercial marijuana growing operation, the state could come in and close him down if he didn't have his commercial license, White said.

Some town board members will attend a state conference July 13 on municipal issues surrounding the medical marijuana industry. Because White won't actually need the commercial zoning for another year, the board chose to look into the issue further before making a decision on the re-zoning request.

Town, Cimarron Cowboy Association, Ladies' Auxiliary Join Forces to Find Grants for Park Upgrade

Sage Hodgson and Vanessa Gerloff, representing the Cimarron Cowboys Association and the Ladies Auxiliary, spoke at the town board meeting about the need to repair or replace the memorial benches at the park.

About half of the park's 60 plus memorial benches – which have plaques commemorating Honored Cowhands and area pioneers who participated in the land run – need to be repaired or replaced, said Hodgson.

Some of the benches have deteriorated so much that they are a hazard, said town maintenance director Stuart Page. "They're rotting at the ground and a good portion of the benches themselves are disintegrating," he said.

With so many unusable, "what we're running into with the Old Cowhand Feed is not enough room" for people to sit, said Hodgson. He and Gerloff estimated that between 600 and 800 people attend the event each year.

In addition, the handicap accessible walkway into the park also needs repairs, said Gerloff. Page agreed. "That's coming apart, too. It's rotting at the ground," Page said. "If anybody used them (the benches there) for support right now, they'd probably end up on the ground. They were bad last year; now they're to the point where they're becoming a hazard."

Everyone agreed on saving the plaques, which are metal plates that Gerloff said are screwed on. "Maybe we put them back on (new) benches or maybe we put a wall up" to display the plaques, Hodgson said.

Brackin asked if the cost of fixing or replacing the benches had been figured up but Hodgson said it hadn't.

However, Hodgson had estimated the cost of an alternative: putting in a cement pad and two pavilions, and purchasing 50 tables and 500 chairs. The cost of all of that could be more than $50,000, he said.

The Cowboy Association used to have a bunch of tables and chairs, but over the years they'd been borrowed and not returned.

Brackin asked Page how many tables the Town of Freedom has, and Page said there were six or seven tables and 20 or 30 chairs in the Masonic Lodge.

"I would think between the county and the fire department and the town and the American Legion and the Cowboys Auxiliary that there could just be a pool of tables and chairs that were secured somewhere but could be shared between all the organizations," said Brackin.

The reason the association and auxiliary had decided to approach the town was to see if they could use the town's tax ID number to apply for a grant to pay for all this. The organizations are not incorporated; they don't file taxes. "We prefer not to (incorporate and pay taxes) for just one event a year," said Hodgson.

That's not an option, said town clerk Cindy Reed, but she had another suggestion to make: teaming up with the town and the American Legion to apply for grants that would cover what the organizations need as well as what the town wants to do with the park.

The town has learned that the town owns part of the park, the Cimarron Cowboys Association owns part and the American Legion owns part.

"We want to put new, improved, better playground equipment on there," Reed said, but $50,000 for new playground equipment isn't quite enough for a grant, she said. "And we have issues because we're not part of tribal properties, we're not a poverty stricken town, believe it or not – according to the Census Bureau we are not – so it's hard for us to get grant money. But if we can form a three-, four-, five-man committee between you guys, the town and the Legion, since it's all of our properties," she said, they could apply for grants together and use the town board as the main presenter.

Kathleen Lourde

Vanessa Gerloff and Sage Hodgson talk to the Freedom Town Board about how the town, the Cimarron Cowboys Association and the association's ladies' auxiliary can work together to repair or replace the benches in the park.

Brackin chimed in with support for the idea. "We've wanted to put a walking trail through and around the park and bring the grades to where they are ADA-accessible and re-do our bathrooms and all that kind of stuff, and if there's any way we could wrap all of that together and go through the committee and plan to it where you could say, 'Listen, this could be stage 1 and then stage 2 and stage 3 – have something comprehensive that is kind of thought out – I think there's a lot of help out there from federal and state, and also Share Trust," he said.

Brackin pressed the group to come up with specific members and settle on a date for their first meeting as a committee "so this doesn't fall through the cracks like many well-meaning plans," he said. He also suggested decisions be made quickly about what work needs to be done before the rodeo this year.

After a good bit of discussion, a date of July 8 was settled on for the committee's first meeting.

Other Town Board Business

In other business, the board approved past meeting minutes; purchase orders for the general, RV, fire, ambulance and grant funds; and blanket purchase orders for 2019-20. They closed the public meeting to go into executive session to discuss town employees' Scope of Work Reviews for the rest of the year and next year.


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