Marijuana decision approaching in Cripple Creek

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

The city of Cripple Creek will finally address one of its hotbed controversies of 2017: Whether it should wave a green leaf marijuana banner and open the door for legal cannabis.

 The city council has agreed to hold a public workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 15 regarding the marijuana situation. The workshop will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. in the city council chambers. However, City Administrator Ray DuBois cautioned that no decision will occur that evening.

In fact, he suggested at last week’s council meeting that this could emerge as the kick-off meeting for a series of forums on the cannabis topic.  

The council will hear from attorney Lee Phillips, Police Chief Mike Rulo and other city staff members regarding the pros and cons of ending the town’s current prohibition against medicinal and recreational marijuana and cultivation centers. Cripple Creek was actually one of the first cities in the region to declare itself off-limits for any type of marijuana business in 2009/2010, under a previous administration.

However, the face of the industry has drastically changed since that point, along with local opinions in the community and the make-up of the council.

City representatives will present information from current communities where recreational marijuana shops are allowed.

A local councilman and an area businessman have suggested that the town should consider amending its current anti-marijuana rules and place the town on an equal competitive footing with gaming rivals in the Black Hawk/Central City area, where several cannabis shops are located.

On the upside, a pro-cannabis scenario for Cripple Creek could generate much more tax revenue for the city. Currently, the city is experiencing a near record low amount of gaming-related betting devices and games. Fees from these devices represent the prime funding mechanism for the city government’s operations and programs. Plus, cannabis shop proponents say it could provide a tourism boon, and fuel another industry besides gaming. And with a gaming town that already offers 24/7 cocktail service, some see this as a good fit.  

On the downside, some leaders are worried about the impacts on the town’s image and the possibility of additional crime. Plus, concerns have been raised about marijuana shop and club customers driving back from Cripple Creek, after they consume too much legal weed.  

The workshop is open to the public. Residents and business operators are welcome to express their opinions, at the pleasure of the city council.

However, typically workshops are designed to present information to the council.

As for future decisions regarding the Cripple Creek marijuana situation, the council has the option of making a decision itself, referring the matter to the voters during a special election, or waiting until the next municipal election in November.

Plan proponents also have the ability to force a vote by garnering a successful initiative drive.

The need for a workshop is being fueled by a proposal by Dr. John Jones of Colorado Springs, who presented a possible plan for starting a cannabis club in Cripple Creek about two months ago. He cited the financial and community advantages of such a plan. At Jones’ request, no decision was made. 

In addition, Councilman Chris Hazlett, who owns a local restaurant/bar, indicated in an earlier budget meeting that the city should consider opening the door for recreational marijuana shops. He cited the benefits that have occurred in such communities as Manitou Springs, where two recreational cannabis shops are permitted.

Currently, state legislation is pending that could set the stage for future cannabis clubs in local communities. Also, current bills are in the works that could close some of the loopholes regarding the state’s marijuana situation. On a statewide basis, voters of Colorado gave the go-ahead for adults to consume and grow a limited amount of recreational marijuana. However, local communities and counties were given the option to opt-out from permitting recreational cannabis shops and grow areas in their jurisdictions. 

If the city decides to move in this pro-marijuana direction, it would become the second community in the Pikes Peak region to permit recreational cannabis outlets on a limited basis.