Earlier this afternoon, a room packed with people went absolutely silent when it was made clear that Colorado Springs City Council had voted 5 to 4 to not allow recreational-marijuana stores in the city. "I hope you're happy," yelled one man, breaking the oppressive quiet.
Despite previously telling the Indy "we have to figure out a way to regulate" recreational marijuana, Councilman Val Snider surprisingly joined four other Councilors in passing an ordinance opting out of the ability to purchase the plant in retail stores.
"I have a hard time grappling with this being illegal on the federal level, so that certainly swayed my vote," he said to the packed City Hall. "I have a tough time talking to an attorney that works for the state of Colorado that says this would be a terrible image to the youth of this area. I wanna watch the city of Denver as they work to regulate and to see how that turns out, and maybe, yes, we could bring this back to Colorado Springs.
"I guess, bottom line: I'm not convinced that we need to make it more accessible for the youth here to go out and buy it, so I will be voting for opting out."
Outside of Snider, everyone else fell along expected lines, with Councilors Keith King, Jill Gaebler, Helen Collins and Jan Martin all voting in favor of allowing RMJ stores.
"As an elected official myself, I just couldn't imagine making a decision that goes against what the voters of, not only Colorado, but the city of Colorado Springs wanted," said Martin before voting. She added a little later: "I don't know if any of the rest of you noticed today, but I really see that this is a generational issue. I see many of the younger people in our community not threatened by this; [who] actually look forward to opening up and regulating this for our community."
Joined by Councilors Don Knight, Joel Miller, Merv Bennett and Snider in voting against RMJ stores, Councilman Andres Pico expressed a sentiment that was also tied to voting numbers.
"The precincts within my district, only four out of 20 voted for Amendment 64, and that's a pretty significant thing," said Pico. "So, I absolutely will respect the vote of the people in District 6 and ensure their voice is heard in this discussion."
The vote removes the threat of further Council conflict with Mayor Steve Bach, who threatened to veto anything that wasn't an outright ban.
"I know this is a really tough issue — it may be the toughest I've seen in my two years of being mayor," Bach said at the beginning of the meeting. "Because I know we all care about free-market systems and we cherish individual liberties as sacrosanct in this country and in this city. ... Despite that, despite my lifelong principle of believing in free markets and individual liberties, I urge you today, once again, to opt out."
The vote leaves Pueblo County and Manitou Springs as the two nearest localities that have not banned the stores.
As for Colorado Springs' future, there's always this:
Worth noting: Marijuana supporters could run initiative in 2014 to bring recreational marijuana sales to Colorado Springs. But none for now.
— John Ingold (@john_ingold) July 23, 2013
Don McKay, owner of Southern Colorado Medical Marijuana, posted a similar comment on the Gazette's story:
"Shocker," he wrote. "Oh well, we will do it the way we do everything, the hard way. Gather signatures, special election, overturn the ban, oust the ones that give the bird to the voice of those that elected them. We are all pretty tired of the good ol boys club and have the clout to do something about it."