Pot Votes Looming


By Rick Langenberg:


Although it may be all quiet on the Teller County reefer front, that’s not the case down the Pass with big pending marijuana votes looming in Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs.

This could impact Teller County indirectly, as these tallies could play a big role in determining if adults can purchase recreational marijuana in retail outlets in neighboring communities. This may force Teller and local municipalities to take a second look at this issue. Teller elected leader have taken a staunch stand against recreational pot outlets, but the county commissioners have amended their rules dramatically to open the doors for probably the most publicized medicinal marijuana farm in the state, with the 50-plus acre operation of the Stanley brothers outside Divide. The county has agreed to permit licensed medicinal marijuana outlets to expand their operations by 25,000 square feet of green house space if this extra area is used for the cultivation of non-psychoactive medical marijuana, often used to assist patients suffering from epileptic seizures and related symptoms.

In the lower Ute Pass, Manitou Springs is getting ready to usher in the first marijuana retail operation in the Pikes Peak region with Maggie’s Farm. But the pro-recreational marijuana stance of the city council is under scrutiny by some local business operators who have submitted signatures on a petition effort that would put the issue to a vote of local citizens in Manitou Springs. According to representatives of a group called No Retail Marijuana in Manitou Springs, their organization, consisting of operators of a number of retail shops, has collected more than twice the amount of signatures required to force a vote.

Tim Haas, the group’s campaign treasurer noted that Amendment 64, while supported by a majority of Manitou Springs voters, is complicated and leaves residents and business owners with too many unanswered questions. “As stated on our city’s web site, our community at the foot of Pikes Peak is a picturesque mountain community known for its friendly residents and historic charm,” he said in a prepared statement. “We are in no way attempting to pass moral judgment on the use of medical or recreational marijuana. We simply believe that the residents and businesses of Manitou Springs should not be the litmus test and the only community in the Pikes Peak region to sell retail marijuana at least until there is more knowledge about the impacts on communities who sell retail marijuana,” he added.

Committee member Justin Armour explained, “We should do everything to keep Manitou Springs a family-friendly community dependent on traditional tourism, not a retail marijuana destination for El Paso and Teller County.” The group’s petition signatures for their citizens’ referendum must now be reviewed by the Manitou Springs clerk’s office. If officials deem that the anti-recreational marijuana petition generates enough valid signatures from registered electors, then the issue will be decided by the voters. However, officials are still unclear if this could stop the Maggie’s Farm operation, proposed at 141 Manitou Avenue. But it would definitely slam the brakes on future recreational marijuana outlets.

Meanwhile, in Colorado Springs, the city council will decide later this month, if it should put an issue on the November ballot that could allow the city to regulate recreational marijuana businesses. This is an extension of the campaign sentiment of a group called Every Vote Counts. They have contended that Springs’ voters approved Amendment 64 by nearly 5,000 tallies.

The Colorado Springs City Council voted previously to ban recreational marijuana shops, but this “no pot shops” verdict only was approved by a single tally. Last week, Councilwoman Jill Gaebler asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance asking voters if the city should regulate marijuana sales in the same way it regulates alcohol sales. One of the big selling points for Colorado Springs leaders deals with the revenue that these types of sales could generate for the city. The most recent revenue figures indicated that recreational marijuana sales in the state for the month of April exceeded $20 million, with more than $3 million netted in taxes. Colorado Springs sports a large number of medicinal marijuana shops that could be converted into recreational pot businesses.

A formal decision will be made by the Springs Council on June 24. If Colorado Springs voters gives the okay to recreational pot outlets, this could put more pressure on governments in Teller to alter their anti-recreational marijuana stance.