Businessman wants to grow marijuana in old prison

BRUSH – If a local businessman from Fort Morgan has his way, an old prison he purchased in the city of Brush will become the future home of a marijuana cultivation and distribution facility.

Nicholas Erker and his father Michael Erker own Colorado Farm Products.

Back in March, Nicholas Erker purchased the High Plains Correctional Facility in Brush. According Brush City Clerk Andrea Strand, the facility was initially used as a youth detention center before being transformed into a women's correctional facility.

Brush City records show the building operated as a women's correctional facility until it closed in 2010.

When Nicholas Erker purchased the old prison, he originally planned to expand his family's confection sunflower business, but decided turning it into a marijuana cultivation and distribution facility would be more beneficial financially.

Over the phone on Wednesday, Erker's father Michael said the plan is still in its beginning stages.

The problem Erker is facing has to do with the city of Brush's local laws regarding pot.

In 2013, the city council passed a moratorium outlawing the distribution and sale of marijuana until at least 2016.

"The town felt there were no clear guidelines from the state when it came to licensing procedures," Strand said. "So the council placed a moratorium until there were was more guidance from the state."

Fortunately for Erker, the city can revisit the law at any time. Erker has visited with the city council several times asking them to consider his proposal.

According to Strand, four out of the seven council members who initially voted on the moratorium in 2013 have since been replaced.

Tyler Purvis, who does marketing and economic development for the city of Brush said the proposed facility could create 31 new jobs, which would be beneficial for the area.

On top of that, Purvis said there are certain tax incentives the city could collect – but added it was far too early to discuss those sorts of details.

In the meantime, the city council is going to open the proposal up for public discussion on Monday, Aug. 4. A hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at city hall.

"I would love to find out where the community stands on it," Purvis said. "Previously, as a county, we opposed it when [Amendment 64] was on the ballot."

The city of Brush is located in Morgan County.

If the public is interested in the proposal, it could take months for it to come to fruition, Strand said.

"After the public hearing, staff will compile all of the citizens' comments and give it to council to consider. There would have to be a lot zoning changes. A lot of work would have to be done," Strand said.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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