Week in Summit: Holiday Inn looks to stub out marijuana in the High Country
The high drama playing out between the Holiday Inn and Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, the neighbor the hotel never wants to meet, continued this week in Frisco. The hotel is determined to keep the dispensary from occupying a building located just across a shared parking lot.
Like a poker player who compensates for that little tickle of panic during a hand by placing an all-in bet, the hotel’s owner teamed up with the anti-pot advocacy group Safe Streets Alliance and on Thursday named Medical Marijuana of the Rockies as one of 12 defendants in a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations case.
Safe Streets, based in Washington, D.C., sponsored the lawsuit in partnership with co-plaintiff New Vision Hotels, the Colorado Springs company that owns the Frisco Holiday Inn.
RICO in Frisco? The RICO Act, by the way, is a federal law that’s generally used to go after organized crime.
The plaintiffs argue that Colorado benefited from the $44 million in tax revenue generated in 2014 by legal marijuana, much as organized crime families benefit from illegal drug and weapons sales.
“It is a creative argument,” said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution fellow and author of a recent paper outlining the challenges the marijuana industry will face in 2015. “They’re accusing the state of doing something that would clearly be illegal if a crime family were doing it, setting up a system and taking a percentage of money from operations.”
The defendants have 21 days to respond to the suit.
Summit County’s use of eminent domain last year to seize private property in Breckenridge drew predictable criticism from the national media outlets that can find examples of so-called government overreach everywhere they look — namely Fox News and the National Review, the latter of which described county officials as “apparatchiks.”
But the town’s action also was the catalyst for a Colorado Senate bill aimed at limiting local governments use of eminent domain in the future.
That bill was voted down Tuesday, Feb. 17, by a bipartisan group of senators on the local government committee, which means it won’t be presented on the Senate floor or continue to the House.
“We’re really pleased that it died an early death,” said Karn Stiegelmeier, chair of the Summit Board of County Commissioners. “It really was a groundswell of opposition from counties as well as municipalities.”
Strongly opposing the measure, were Colorado Counties Inc., which represents the state’s mostly small, rural and conservative county governments, and the Colorado Municipal League, which represents towns. The bill applied only to county governments, but the league worried that if it passed another bill targeting town governments would follow.
Bill sponsor Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, said the bill would stop governments from seizing land for recreation, conservation or open space purposes and defend personal property rights.
Opponents, like Stiegelmeier, countered that fears of government run amok are overblown. “People like to think of eminent domain as a terrible government action, but it’s rarely, rarely ever used,” she said.
Eminent domain is an important tool, she said, that helps counties and towns create and protect parks, trails, scenery and recreation areas, especially in places like Summit that are home to old, private mining claims established before national forest land was designated around them.
SUBSTANCE USE, BULLYING UP IN SUMMIT SCHOOLS
The good news, according to the results of the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, is that Summit students make good choices compared with their peers statewide when it comes to nutrition and physical activity. The bad news is they report above-state-average experiences with substance use and bullying.
“At the middle school, we felt good about what we saw” in the survey, said Julie McCluskie, school district spokeswoman. “At the high school level, we are concerned with student use of alcohol and marijuana, in particular, and some of the other drugs on the report.”
The results might be explained, in part, by the fact that kids learn from adults, said Robin Albert, manager of Summit County Youth and Family Services.
“Our kids are exposed to that vacation, resort attitude,” she said. “It’s something we all battle in the mountains, whether it’s Vail or Aspen or Steamboat.”
On March 5, school and county officials will gather to give parents and others an opportunity to talk about the data and how to respond.
The survey was taken in fall 2013 by 40,000 randomly selected students at about 220 middle and high schools.
FOUNDATION FEARS FRAUD FAR-REACHING
Every year, The Summit Foundation offers two educational workshops for county nonprofits. This year’s topic? Financial controls, which to all of us who don’t count beans for a living is known as fraud prevention.
The choice of topic won’t come as a surprise if you recall the stories dominating Summit’s news late last year, as allegations came to light regarding the Summit Association of Realtors and a local homeowners association. Investigators allege that Sue Frank, longtime CEO of SAR, embezzled more than $415,000 from the organization in the course of several months, while financial administrator Robert Dwight Polich was charged with embezzling around $160,000 from a Keystone-based HOA.
Our guess is that the recent cases of fraud in Summit won’t deter our very generous community from giving. They are simply reminders that, unfortunately, no organization — nonprofit, for-profit, large or small — is immune from wrongdoing.
U.S. SOLID ON
WORLD SKI STAGE
The recent Alpine World Ski Championships took place in Beaver Creek — which is, we know, in Eagle County, not Summit. But the U.S. did well on a world stage, so it’s worth a mention here. The stars of the event were Slovenia’s Tina Maze (two golds, one silver) and, of course, the Austrians, led by Anna Fenninger and Marcel Hirscher with three medals each.
To no one’s surprise the Austrians finished first with nine medals total. But the U.S. earned five medals, which was good for second place and tied its second best showing at worlds. If there was any disappointment in the result, it was only because hopes were so high that the Americans, with the strongest team they’ve ever brought to the championships, might be able to take down the mighty Austrians.
On the down side, Bode Miller crashed in the super-G and severed his right hamstring tendon, fueling speculation that America’s winningest male in Alpine might call it a career.
But there were plenty of bright spots, like Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin coming through with gold medals. Ligety made history, in fact, becoming the first man to win three straight world GS titles. He also earned bronze in the Alpine combined. And Shiffrin, from Eagle-Vail, recovered from a slow start to defend her slalom title.
Travis Ganong won a silver medal in the downhill, and Vonn took home a bronze in the super-G medal — though after missing the podium in both the giant slalom and the downhill she said her results overall were “extremely disappointing.”
Perhaps the other stars were the U.S. ski fans, who turned out in force to support the home team. Julia Mancuso, who competed in the speed events, told the Washington Post the crowd at the finish line was so loud that she could hear the roar at the starting gate, a mile and a half up the hill.
This article contains reporting from the Summit Daily, The Washington Post and the AP.
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