Another attempt to legalize recreational marijuana sales is taking shape in Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs only allows medical marijuana dispensaries, having banned recreational sales in 2013. Attempts to ask questions about recreational sales on ballots have since failed, but current regulators say they are approaching this from a different angle.
Previous attempts at the ballot initiative have passed through Colorado Springs City Council, according to local marijuana business attorney Cliff Black, but the council has never approved the ballot proposal. So this time around, Black and his fellow supporters are pursuing a citizen vote initiative.
Black and a coalition of community and business leaders recently turned to language for a ballot initiative that would allow Colorado Springs medical dispensaries to apply for recreational sales licenses. If this language is approved by the city’s initiative review committee, organizers will have ninety days to collect about 33,000 signatures if they want the initiative to appear in the November 2022 ballot.
Although some Colorado Springs city council members have been vocal in their support of allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in the city before, they never formed a majority, and Mayor John Suthers, a former Colorado attorney general, has consistently opposed recreational marijuana during his tenure. However, that has not prevented the opening of more than 100 medical dispensaries in Colorado Springs, which has one of the highest numbers of medical marijuana patients in the state, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.
“This is the first time we’ve implemented an initiative for citizens to include it on the ballot. We’ve worked with the city council before, and they haven’t put it on the local ballot,” Black says.
Batch 2020 by Leisure Sales Supporters Fail to get enough traction On the board, but informal polling His local news outlet KOAA has shown majority support for recreational dispensaries in Colorado Springs, and Black says his organization, Your Choice CoS, has conducted polls on the issue as well.
“We did the poll, and we think voters are in favor of allowing recreational sales in Colorado Springs,” he says.
The initiative will only allow existing medical dispensaries to apply for recreational sales in order to comply with the city’s licensing cap, and will not allow new stores to open; Only entertainment stores will also be banned, Black notes. According to a statement from Your Choice CoS, local tax returns will be subject to an annual citizen review to “ensure that money is spent where voters agree.”
Carly Van Arnam, a former Colorado Springs city council candidate and Your Choice CoS board member, believes there is a lot of tax revenue left on the table because entertainment sales have been banned in the state’s second-largest city. Near Manitou Springs, a town of just 5,000 residents less than fifteen minutes from Colorado Springs, is reaping the rewards of this ban, according to Van Arnam, a member of the local medical marijuana industry.
“Colorado Springs has already donated a lot,” she says. “The longer we wait, the more we donate, and we have to stop giving Manitou and surrounding areas our tax returns.”
More than half of all sales tax revenue in Manitou Springs 2019 came from recreational pot sales, according to former mayor Ken Garay; Most of that may be residents of Colorado Springs and other constellations. A 2020 report by former recreational sales proponents in Colorado Springs estimated that an 8 percent tax on recreational pot sales would bring in Over $72 million in tax revenue in five years.
The Suthers refused to promise to increase tax revenue when explaining his opposition to the sale of recreational marijuana; He says he does not believe the money will mitigate the perceived negative impact on quality of life, including the inconvenience of the city’s military presence. But proponents of marijuana legalization dispute these claims, pointing to recommendation sales in West Coast cities like San Diego and Sacramento, which have military bases and recreational pot sales.
“We have some of the largest naval bases on the West Coast,” says Van Arnam. “It doesn’t hurt the relationship at all in that state, so there’s no reason to believe she’d be here. On top of that, cannabis is already legal in Colorado Springs, so these issues have been going on for years.”