by Bud Price and Rick Langenberg:
With the new cloud of marijuana smoke forming over the state of Colorado, a political storm has ignited surrounding this issue. The passage of Amendment 64, (the pro-recreational marijuana law) has given all Colorado adults the right to use and grow marijuana legally on a limited basis, but it allows local governments to ban recreational pot outlets within their towns. In the wake of this new law, many local governments in Colorado reacted and promptly outlawed the retail sales of marijuana..
This has triggered much controversy, with many citizens within these cities and counties crying foul. The pro-recreational pot proponents have argued that their voice has not been heard and that leaders are ignoring the will of Colorado voters. Some residents decided to challenge the anti-pot rulings of their local elected officials and force the subject to a vote of the people in their respective towns.
As soon as Amendment 64 passed, many local government officials had meetings and soon decided to outlaw recreational pot outlets within their city or county. Larkspur and Palmer Lake officials, for example, joined this ?no pot shops, period? list and decided to ban retail marijuana sales. However, the citizens of both cities petitioned their government and forced the issue of retail marijuana outlets to a public vote. Many citizens of these towns maintained that their voice was being ignored. On April 1, the recreational pot issue in Palmer Lake generated a record number of voters. In a close tally, the majority of residents voted against retail sales by a 538 to 481 margin.
Even with a defeat for the pro-recreational marijuana movement, the Palmer Lake results demonstrated that there are a significant number of local citizens who support legal cannabis outlets. A week later on April 8, the citizens of Larkspur voted down retail sales by a more convincing 73 to 26 margin.
With the voting results of these two towns, Manitou Springs will emerge the only town in the Pikes Peak region to allow retail sales of marijuana. Manitou Springs will open its doors to the world of recreational marijuana when its first pot retail shop, Maggie?s Farm, opens possibly at the end of June. The town is allowing licenses for two recreational marijuana outlets, outside of the historic district (see related story).
With Larkspur and Palmer Lake taking themselves off the list of possible marijuana retail sale locations in the Southern Colorado area, the door is open only for a few remaining outlets. The towns of Canon City and Florence are still mulling plans for recreational pot shops. The Canon City Council, in a meeting earlier this month, decided to let local voters decide the issue in the general election in November. Florence, meanwhile, is evaluating ways to possibly regulate marijuana outlets through detailed regulations. Opinions are highly divided regarding the retail sales of cannabis products in both communities.
In addition, a renewed bid is in the works to revisit the prospects of recreational weed outlets in Colorado Springs. A non-profit group in Colorado Springs, called ?Every Vote Counts,? wants to petition the city and legalize the recreational sale of marijuana by putting the issue to a vote of the citizens. The group is citing the need for tax revenue and the fact that most Colorado Springs residents approved Amendment 64. The group wants to overturn the ban against recreational marijuana shops approved by the majority members of the city council in 2013.
Unlike Palmer Lake and Larkspur, Colorado Springs sports a large number of medicinal marijuana shops that could be converted into recreational pot outlets. Plus, the earlier Colorado Springs City Council decision that banned recreational pot shops only passed by a single vote. In recent months, much friction has developed between Mayor Steve Bach, a staunch opponent of legalizing recreational pot outlets, and the city council. Political insiders believe the prospects are good for a positive local vote legalizing recreational pot businesses, or a council tally that reverses the city?s earlier stand.
Teller County elected leaders, though, have displayed little desire to alter their ?no-recreational pot? stance and even to put the issue to a vote. But in a recent meeting, the Teller commissioners, in a move to boost the cultivation operations of one of the biggest and most publicized medical marijuana farms in the state, agreed to permit current licensed medicinal marijuana operators to expand their growing outlets to the tune of 25,000 extra square feet, if this expansion is limited to non-psychoactive medical marijuana, known as the Canabadiol product. This marijuana, which doesn?t contain THC, has benefitted many pediatric patients across the country. This is a story that has turned into a huge media sensation. Ironically, it has put conservative Teller County, which houses the mega, 52-acre medical marijuana operation of the Stanley brothers (Josh, Joel, Jesse, Jon, Jordan and Jared) on the national weed map.