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Brush Businessman Keeps Defunct Prison Pot Grow Efforts Alive

Grace Hood
Colorado's High Plains Correctional Facility sits just north of Brush, Colorado.

Brush leaders have blocked efforts from a local entrepreneur to turn an old prison into a spot for researching and growing marijuana. But that's not stopping Nick Erker from pursuing another path for approval for his plan.

"In the privacy of the voting booth, I think we're going to get to see how people really feel about this," said the Brush-based owner of Colorado Farm Products.

Erker's hopes were dashed Aug. 25 when the Brush city council decided 4-3 to not overturn its three-year pot moratorium. Now he's pursuing a ballot initiative to put in front of voters.

"We have a very limited amount of time," he said. "I've been encouraged by a lot of supporters to bring this to the vote of the people."

Earlier community meetings on the topic sparked strong criticism of the idea.

Erker bought the former women's prison in 2014, saying his original plan for the facility didn't include growing marijuana. But after a friend sent a joking text about his intentions for the site, a light bulb went off.

"It didn't take me long to realize there was an opportunity here," he said. "You couldn't design a more perfect building. You have 20-by-20 foot rooms that have water, sewer, electricity in them. Each room is locked. You can control the environment in each room."

Attitudes about marijuana are more negative along the northeastern plains compared to the Front Range. Next door Logan County banned marijuana cultivation facilities and retail shops.

But things are shifting, said Erker. In Morgan County, where Brush is based, commissioners paved the way for marijuana dispensaries Feb. 12. Those shops are just now starting to open their doors.

Erker thinks Brush could be next.

"Were going to do everything we can to get that word out there. We're going to be holding several community meetings, educational forums — really getting things out there to inform people so they can make an educated decision on this."

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