The momentum is building for the city of Cripple Creek to rethink its staunch stand against marijuana-based outlets that are now allowed through Amendment 64 (the pro-recreational marijuana law approved by Colorado voters).
Only weeks after a Cripple Creek councilman suggested opening the door for the prospects of permitting retail marijuana, another even bolder pro-pot plan has been unveiled, calling for the town to adopt a cannabis club model. This would permit safe public places for individuals to hang out, socialize, partake in various activities and smoke legal weed inside the city limits of Cripple Creek. They also could obtain the product, based on a reimbursement policy as a club member.
The latest proposal, submitted by Dr. John Jones of Colorado Springs, would almost emulate a cannabis version of a local Elks Lodge. “I’m talking about establishments that were actually member driven,” he said. “Establishments in which members performed hours of community service each month. Establishments that donated thousands of dollars to charity each year. Establishments that offered a safe, secure environment, where like-minded individuals, business people, parents, and tourists can come together, in accordance with our American right to peacefully assemble. Establishments that grow the best herb in the state of Colorado, just for their members,” explained Jones, during a detailed presentation before the city council last week, in explaining the background of cannabis clubs.
Jones, who also works as general manger for The Mountain Jackpot (TMJ)newspaper, has been involved with a number of Cripple Creek-based marketing promotions in the last year and a half.
As for the benefits of a private cannabis club, Jones cited the advantages of attracting a younger more diverse crowd to Cripple Creek, generating more tourists and providing a complimentary atmosphere to gaming and the town’s 24/7 party-like environment. And more notably, the plan would offer the town another viable revenue source that could give the city government much needed money.
He also believes Cripple Creek is an ideal fit. “It can become as big or as little as the city desires,” said the cannabis club promoter. “Grow facilities, production facilities, conventions and more.”
Jones cited a desire to get involved in the business in Cripple Creek with his family. “I have an inborn fondness for any community that welcomes the Hells Angels in with open arms and lets a herd of historic descendant donkeys wander the streets openly. .. I’m wanting to relocate my family of four here and help jump-start an organizational business in an industry that produced over $7.2 billion dollars in the United States this year to date,” he added.
Talk about ending the marijuana prohibition in Cripple Creek isn’t unusual.
During an earlier meeting in November, Councilman Chris Hazlett, the owner of Ralf’s Breakroom, threw out the idea of the city considering retail marijuana shops as a way to generate more revenue. The councilman cited the success of Manitou Springs with its cannabis retail shops and hinted that this could open up more possibilities for Cripple Creek, if this plan is done right. Hazlett’s comments were made during a budget session in November in which town leaders were given a dismal view of their current and future finances with a 30-year historic low in the amount of betting devices, the primary revenue source for the government of Cripple Creek.
During this earlier meeting, the idea of retail marijuana got a plug by several casino operators, who cited this as a possible way to diversify the economy and boost tourism.
For any of these plans to move forward, the city would have to reverse its current laws that outlaw all forms of medical and recreational marijuana outlets, along with grow facilities. During the boon of the medical marijuana explosion in Colorado in 2009 and 2010, Cripple Creek was one of the first towns in the area to declare their city off-limits to any marijuana-related outlet. It continued this anti-cannabis stand during the implementation of Amendment 64. “We just don’t want them (marijuana outlets) up here in Cripple Creek,” said former Mayor Dan Baader at the time of the initial marijuana boon in Colorado.
Jones’ presentation definitely raised a few questions among the council members. Hazlett worried about the club model, compared to retail shops, with patrons having to drive home after smoking pot in a public area. The comparison to an Elks Club Lodge also received much scrutiny.
Jones, though, defended this comparison, noting he is a long-time member of an Elks Club facility in Oklahoma. He said the social and community-minded purpose of his possible cannabis club venture is fairly similar to a typical Elks Lodge.
Councilman Tom Litherland queried the cannabis club presenter about the possible impacts of the new presidential administration, with future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, considered a definite foe of the marijuana industry. But Jones countered that president-elected Donald Trump is a firm believer in states’ rights. And currently, he noted that nearly 30 states across the country have approved some sort of marijuana outlets.
A favorable response
The cannabis club promoter also got much support from several local residents, who attended last week’s meeting. “If you want marijuana, you are going to get it,” said long-time resident and Elks Club member Jack Maberry. As a result, he believes the city should take advantage of a potential opportunity and receive additional revenue.
Similar views were echoed by Ron Joseph, a military veteran who has incurred some health ailments. He said it’s time for city to lift its ban against marijuana outlets. “Marijuana is not considered a drug in my reality.” He cited marijuana as a helpful medicine that assists him in alleviating pain.
And Teri Eckhardt, who has lived in town for several years, stated that Cripple Creek is reliving the Dark Ages with its current anti-cannabis rules and losing out to the Black Hawk/Central City area, where several recreational marijuana shops exist and are thriving.
“Why are things going backward? (in Cripple Creek)?” she questioned.
She cited Jones’ proposal as quite innovative. “Think how you want it done,” added Eckhardt.
Moreover, the resident urged the council to end its marijuana ban. Otherwise, she fears that they will lose more potential customers and visitors to the gaming rivals, north of Denver.
At the request of the potential cannabis club applicant, the council opted to table the issue to further review the proposal. No date was given as far as when the issue will get discussed again.
According to Hazlett, one of the main immediate steps the city needs to address involves its current marijuana regulations. “We may be putting the cart before the horse,” said the councilman, regarding discussing any specific marijuana plans.
If Cripple Creek takes a pro-recreational marijuana stand, it would become the second municipality in the Pikes Peak region to open their door to retail pot and cannabis grow shops.