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Let voters decide on rec pot

Voice of Reason



A riddle: What’s legal in Colorado, endorsed by a majority of city voters, readily available within just a short drive, but not sold in Colorado Springs? The answer: retail marijuana.

Back in 2012, city voters supported Amendment 64 by a 5,000-vote margin, which helped legalize recreational pot use and sales across the state. The measure also allowed Colorado cities and counties to decide for themselves if they wanted to permit the sale of recreational weed in their jurisdictions.

In 2013, by a one-vote margin, Springs City Council cemented the decision to outlaw recreational pot sales, and despite repeated requests, have remained unwilling to put a ballot issue before the voters.

And despite their opposition, anyone can drive to Manitou Springs and buy recreational weed. Or they can choose to head south to Pueblo and Trinidad. Or north to Denver. Or grow their own. Getting the point here?

Here’s what City Council seems to miss: Under state law, adults can grow up to 12 recreational plants per residence and share their crop with friends. And the city permits residents who have purchased recreational pot elsewhere to enjoy it legally at city-licensed marijuana consumption clubs. Legal recreational marijuana already happens here.

But that’s not the only reason the city should revisit its decision.

In July 2017, Jack Strauss, the Miller Chair of Applied Sciences at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, took a look at the economic potential for retail pot in Colorado Springs. He found that marijuana stores could have generated up to $18.1 million in tax revenue in 2017, and $25.4 million in taxes and permitting fees in 2018. He also estimated a retail market could have generated between 1,320 and 1,762 jobs for the region in 2018.

We see that as millions of reasons to permit recreational marijuana sales in Colorado Springs.

“But,” you argue, “we’re Olympic City USA. We can’t have the stigma of marijuana stores associated with our fine community.”

Here’s some more news: Most tourists don’t know there’s a difference between Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. From the outside looking in, it’s all Colorado Springs weed.

City Council should just go full-bore and reverse course on what was clearly a bad call. But realistically, that’s not about to happen.

There is, however, room for compromise. Put the question of recreational pot sales before the city’s voters. The November 2020 election offers the opportunity to correct an even bigger screw-up — the Trump administration — so it’s going to be a big one.

Let citizens decide then, once and for all, whether we should sell retail weed within city limits. Let the voters speak, and act in accordance with the results.

Our policy is to disclose all real or perceived conflicts of interest. Accordingly, we note that Indy Chair John Weiss serves on the board of Together for Colorado Springs (T4CS). In the last election cycle, the T4CS PAC endorsed City Council candidates Bill Murray and Terry Martinez, both of whom supported letting citizens vote to decide on whether to allow recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs. T4CS purchased $7,863 in print and digital ads to promote its endorsements, with $3,734 coming from local marijuana interests.

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