by Rick Langenberg:
After months of speculation, it?s finally official.
Manitou Springs, a community known as a burgeoning tourist and art hub, and a town with colorful hippie traditions, will feature the first recreational medical marijuana shop In the Pikes Peak region.
By a 6-1 vote, the Manitou Springs City Council approved a conditional use permit for Maggie?s Farm, opening the door for a recreational pot outlet at 141 Manitou Avenue. This location formerly housed a car museum and auto garage. However, the new store, to be operated by Maggie?s Farm proprietor Bill Conkling won’t open until later next month. Conkling must undergo a detailed approval process at the state level.
In the past, much debate ensued on the pros and cons of housing recreational cannabis shops. But during a meeting earlier this month, traffic and parking emerged as the big buzz words. Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder, a big supporter of recreational pot outlets, suggested that the city address some of these potential issues by offering a free shuttle to help with overflow traffic on opening day. During the official and historic opening of retail pot shops in Colorado earlier this year, some locations in Denver reported three hour lines.
But since then, much of the media buzz has dissipated. Manitou Springs leaders already agreed they would allow two recreational marijuana retail shops, and would place stringent conditions on the applicants.
The council reacted favorably to Conkling?s bid as he already completed much of the required preparation work, according to planning officials. Plus, Conkling has operated several successful medical marijuana shops in Colorado Springs. Although the idea of retail marijuana businesses has been quite controversial in parts of Colorado, the pro-cannabis movement has been supported by many residents. Manitou Springs voters approved Amendment 64 (the pro-recreational marijuana law) by an overwhelming margin. As a result, the Manitou Springs City Council gave the go-ahead for allowing a few retail marijuana shops outside the historic district by a 6-1 vote on Jan. 21.
Still, the idea has gotten a cold response by many local business operators, who fear this could put a damper on the town?s tourism-based family image. A petition effort has been proposed that would outlaw retail marijuana shops in Manitou Springs. At the same time, the town has gained quite a reputation as a former hippie town with strong ties to the late 1960s and early 1970s and some of the symbolic relics of the pro-marijuana era. According to some accounts, Manitou Springs sports more Grateful Dead (a band with a strong pro-drug and free-spirited legacy) fans per capita than possibly any spot in Colorado.