The marijuana business in southern Colorado is having some unintended consequences--and neighbors in one town are now taking a stand.
Penrose only has 3,500 people, but it's already seeing the marijuana business booming. Seven marijuana grow operations have been approved, and many are already in operation. They're allowed to have several greenhouses on their property--and one of them has 17. Another seven businesses wanting to build in or near Penrose are waiting for a state license.
Some residents of this Fremont County community say the smell from the marijuana grow operations is overwhelming.
11 News reporter Gina Esposito spoke with one resident, who lives within sight of one of the grow operations.
Esposito: "I can smell the marijuana. You can smell it right here."
Susan Hilderbrand: "Yeah, it's very strong."
Hilderbrand: "It's been like this for the past two days."
Hilderbrand says the smell isn't the only problem. The greenhouses, she tells Esposito, are bright at night, and are also using a lot of the town's water supply.
"I don't think anyone realized that this was going to be an issue," Hilderbrand, who is with a group called Penrose Concerned Citizens, said. "And that's our main thrust with what we are trying to do here: to make people aware. We would like to see it regulated here, but it needs to be regulated elsewhere."
Penrose Concerned Citizens has brought their issues to Apple Valley, which has 17 greenhouses on its property, including the one that is visible from Hilderbrand's home. Many of the greenhouses are filled with marijuana plants.
"We are doing everything we can to be good neighbors in terms of odor control, light pollution, water usage. Some of these things are pretty expensive," Edward Vasquez, co-owner of Apple Valley, told 11 News.
Apple Valley installed blackout curtains, air filters and new watering systems. Vasquez tells 11 News that all of these changes were made voluntarily, as Fremont County has yet to draft regulations for marijuana cultivation.
Last week, Fremont County commissioners out a hold on future construction of marijuana growing facilities for 120 days. During that time, the county will come up with regulations for medical marijuana greenhouses in hopes of addressing some of the residents' concerns, and to set standards for all future developments.
Esposito also asked commissioners why so many medical marijuana facilities want to operate in Penrose. They say they are still trying to figure that out.