El Paso County board will refer MMJ ban to ballot



Bensberg: The lone dissenter.
  • Bensberg: The lone dissenter.

Update, 2:04 p.m.: To clarify, though the vote will only affect businesses located in unincorporated territory, all registered El Paso County voters will be eligible to weigh in on this issue, not solely those in the unincorporated areas, as part of the November ballot.

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In a meeting that went half as long as the previous, the El Paso Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 to refer a medical marijuana ban question to the ballot.

Commissioner Jim Bensberg was the lone dissenter, citing logic similar to a City Councilor's recent decision.

"I don’t question the motives of those who wish to change the status quo, nor do I condone illegal activity of any type," Bensberg says. "But I believe, as my colleague and City Councilman Scott Hente believes, in representative government. … We should decide these types of issues.

“We should not devolve into a board that does nothing but set ballot titles for controversial issues ... We ought to have the political courage to decide this issue one way or another.”

Commissioner Sallie Clark proposed an earlier motion to add a grandfathering clause to the ballot language which failed in a vote of 4-1. Despite that, Clark voted for ban referral.

"I will vote to put it on the ballot, but I think it’s important that it’s explained very clearly that this will not impact those that are in operation in their municipalities of our eight towns and cities through this county," Clark says. "It will only impact the unincorporated. But it will likely increase, if it passes, to push more into neighborhoods. And I don’t think that’s a good thing.”

In earlier testimony, Sheriff Terry Maketa echoed that sentiment.

”They’re going to end up in our neighborhood, and that’s the last place that we want them," he says. "And a lot of us don’t want them at all.”

The sheriff also added that he had not found an increase in crime following dispensaries. In fact: “At the time I asked, there had not been one crime related to a dispensary. I can only speak for the data we have available, but we have not seen it.”

Commissioner Amy Lathen justified the board's decision, despite earlier actions toward licensure: "We do the very best to guarantee opportunity, but we do not guarantee outcomes. It’s not our role to guarantee outcomes. Especially when we put [earlier measures] out there as temporary."

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