by Rick Langenberg:
The major tourist hub at the base of the Ute Pass will experience a new attraction: legal cannabis shops.
As expected, the Manitou Springs City Council last week took a key step in opening the door slightly for recreational marijuana businesses by permitting retail cannabis shops, located off the main drag. The council gave the green light to amend its city code to make a few pot shops a reality.
A final vote is expected on Jan. 21.
And pending a last-minute political change of heart, Manitou Springs will become the sole entity in El Paso and Teller counties to permit recreational cannabis businesses. But city officials caution that they are not trying to become the next “Amsterdam of the Pikes Peak region,” and are imposing strict controls through their conditional use permit process. Recreational cannabis shops will be permitted with limited hours in the commercial section of town (east of city hall), but no cultivation or grow hubs are allowed.
Manitou leaders took much time in developing guidelines for regulating recreational marijuana outlets and imposed a moratorium on licensing these businesses, which ends at the end of the month. With this action, Manitou Springs could feature two recreational marijuana retail shops.
The driving force behind the pro-recreational marijuana move is the fact that the vast majority of Manitou Springs residents supported Amendment 64, the state ballot proposition that endorsed the legal use and growth of recreational pot by adults. Still, many business operators have opposed opening the door to pot shops in Manitou, saying it hampers its image as a tourist hub.
Already, 19 municipalities and seven counties in Colorado have given the okay for these types of businesses that became legal on Jan 1. Out of this list, the only big municipalities are Denver and Pueblo. In the last few weeks, the national media has had a heyday with Colorado, with comparisons made between the new recreational pot businesses in parts of the state and Napa Valley wine tours in California. City officials in Manitou, though, say they are glad they escaped the media carnival.
Even under the best-case scenario, marijuana outlets in Manitou won’t be permitted to do recreational sales until this spring.
It’s unsure if this will have any impact on the communities that have banned pot shops in the Pikes Peak region. The governments of Woodland Park, Teller County, Colorado Springs, Green Mountain Falls, Cripple Creek, Victor, El Paso County and virtually all local municipalities in the region have outlawed recreational marijuana shops from opening in their communities. But many of these bans were authorized by extremely close votes.
But it appears these marijuana prohibitions have won an initial legal victory.
Matt Krob, the new Green Mountain Falls town attorney, advised elected leaders last week that a large-scale lawsuit against the municipalities and governments that authorized these marijuana bans in the Pikes Peak region, will probably be tossed out by the court. Green Mountain Falls and many cities in the area were targeted in this suit. The attorney cited a recent court development that will probably de-rail this anti-pot ban legal action. The outcome of this case could have a big impact on the marijuana bans authorized by most governments in Colorado.