Colorado’s second most populous city opts out of retail marijuana sales

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Colorado Springs narrowly voted to ban the sale of recreational marijuana, officially adding another piece to a large jigsaw puzzle of communities south of Denver that will be pot-dry.

Mayor Steve Bach called retail pot sales “a jobs killer for our region” and said it was important to stand with neighboring communities that have already voted to ban retail marijuana establishments. That includes all of unincorporated El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is located, and several nearby suburban communities.

The ability to opt out of allowing storefront pot shops was one of the provisions of Amendment 64, the citizens’ initiative that legalized recreational marijuana use for people over 21.

Despite the ban, Colorado Springs residents can still posses and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. And of course they are free to smoke it or consume it in homemade edible concoctions, as long as it’s not done in pubic.

The Colorado Department of Revenue is currently drafting regulations to oversee retail pot stores, which are expected to begin opening in January. Communities such as Denver and Boulder see dollar signs on the horizon, with both weighing additional taxes on the drug to increase revenue.

Statewide, voters in November will be asked to endorse a 15 percent excise tax an a 10 percent sales tax on retail pot. Communities are free to ask their voters for additional local taxes, but many warn that if the price of pot gets too high, consumers will continue to get it from street dealers.

Nevertheless, critics of the Colorado Springs ban say outlawing retail stores will, at best, send consumers who wish to buy it in stores to Denver or Pueblo for their marijuana, depriving the city of badly needed sales tax revenue. At worse, one man warned at the city council meeting, the ban will allow black market sales to thrive.

Others said the vote ignored the will of Colorado Springs voters, most of whom voted in favor of Amendment 64.

But City Councilman Merv Bennett pointed to opposition from Fort Carson and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, two of the city’s largest employers, as a reason to enact the ban, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The paper reported that the “stunned crowd sat silent for a moment” when the 5-4 vote was announced. Even if the council had voted against the ban, Bach has said that he would veto any action by the board that would allow for pot sales.

Marijuana advocates in Colorado Springs told the Gazette they are weighing the option of gathering signatures to put legal pot sales to a vote in November.

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