Cripple Creek May Wager Bid As Legal Marijuana Hub

by Rick Langenberg:

Will future recreational marijuana outlets, including cannabis consumption clubs, become part of the gambling cards for Cripple Creek?

This question, one of the prime issues facing the gaming community this year, is still commanding much attention at local meetings and is generating a fair amount of questions. In any case, the clock is ticking with a bid for a local cannabis club pending and a request to amend the city’s current anti-marijuana ordinances.   

Last week, City Administrator Ray DuBois asked the council for direction regarding what stance it wants to take in possibly opening its doors more to the prospects of having recreational marijuana shops and outlets, or in continuing its current ban against both medicinal and recreational marijuana and related grow areas, including cannabis clubs.  “Does the council want to make a decision (on this issue)?” asked DuBois, who outlined a variety of options.

He stated that the council could decide the marijuana issue itself, or refer the matter to the voters during a special election, or delay any action until the next regular election next November, with a ballot question. DuBois also wanted to know if the council wanted the staff to rein in on the issue and make a formal recommendation.

DuBois didn’t ask for an immediate response, but suggested that the council consider how it plans to address the marijuana situation and give him some feedback shortly. “What do you want me to do?” asked the city administrator.

Another idea thrown out last week involves establishing a public workshop to discuss the pros and cons of allowing Cripple Creek to become the second community in the Pikes Peak region to open its doors slightly to recreational marijuana outlets, as part of Amendment 64 (the pro-marijuana law passed by the voters of Colorado).

DuBois’ request for assistance on the marijuana question, followed some brief comments by Dr. John Jones of Colorado Springs. Jones submitted a request last month for the town to end their marijuana prohibition and consider allowing a small cannabis club, with comparisons drawn to a marijuana version of an Elks Club.

During the meeting’s public comment session, Jones reminded the council that the previous request was tabled at his request, but still needed some kind of resolution.

He also advised the council of new state legislation that would permit recreational marijuana outlets to have a small public consumption area. He described this as a good proposal and something that could close the loopholes surrounding cannabis clubs with the state’s pro-marijuana law.

The law permits adults to grow and consume a limited amount of marijuana, but doesn’t allow for any public consumptio areas. The new proposed change, according to proponents, also could give Colorado residents a more responsible way to grow their legal quantity of marijuana in a more controlled fashion. It also could resolve questions pertaining to cannabis clubs. 

According to Jones, the bill, proposed in the state Senate, has a good chance of getting approved in this session, which ends in May. He described the plan as quite reasonable, with rules that would clear up much of the current confusion

If it does pass, then city governments would play an even larger role in regulating marijuana-related establishments, according to the bill proponents.

“I think it is a good thing,” said Jones, who wants to relocate in Cripple Creek and to possibly start a cannabis club or small retail marijuana outlet. “I think it is a good thing.”

He described this as a good boon for tourism and a way to compete with the Central City/Black Hawk gaming areas, where several legal cannabis shops are located. “We don’t want to give people any reason to go there, instead of here,” said Jones.

With marijuana consumption areas, he said the rules would be fairly similar to bars or drinking establishments.

Jones made a detailed presentation in mid-December 2016 before the council during which he explained how cannabis clubs work. But since then, the council hasn’t really addressed the issue or made any public comments.  

One of the big pluses in opening the doors to legal marijuana deals with money. Even though the gaming industry has made small, positive strides in the last two years, Cripple Creek is experiencing a near record-low in the amount of betting devices and games featured at local casinos. Gaming device fees are a prime revenue source for the local government. If this trend continues, then the city will have to brace itself for future reductions in city spending or in sponsoring key programs.

According to several council members, the town has received some support for the idea of opening the door more to legal pot. However, elected leaders appear unsure if they want to pursue a cannabis club model, or just allow retail marijuana shops. Some leaders, meanwhile, may opt to do nothing.

Most likely, a future workshop will occur on the issue, according to local sources.