Proposal to ban marijuana shops clears first hurdle

June 11, 2010

An initiative to outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Colorado Springs moved closer to appearing on the November ballot.

The city’s Initiative Review Committee signed off on the proposal Friday after recommending minor changes.

The controversial proposal will go to the city’s title-setting board next.

“I am extremely confident that we will be able to get 14,000 signatures plus” to place the initiative on the ballot, said Steven Wind, one of three Colorado Springs residents backing the petition.

“We’ve got 180 days to get 14,000 signatures, and the good folks in Colorado Springs outnumber the people that are against us – way outnumber them,” Wind said.

Supporters of the initiative need to submit 11,470 signatures from registered Colorado Springs voters, but Wind said they plan to collect more to ensure they have enough that are valid.

Tanya Garduno, director of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, said opponents of the proposed initiative are gearing up to defeat it.

“If you take a look at any dispensary in town, chances are you’re also going to find voter registration (forms) because ... we’re citizens, we vote,” she said. “If this goes to the ballot, you will see more patient votes than you ever have in the past.”

Cities across Colorado are grappling with the contentious issue.

In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana for people with “debilitating medical conditions.” But the constitutional amendment didn’t create a system for widespread distribution.

The issue took center stage when the number of dispensaries — and patients — ballooned after the federal government said it wouldn’t interfere with states that legalized medical marijuana.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a measure that licenses and regulates the marijuana industry.

The law allows cities and counties to ban dispensaries, either by a vote of local officials or a vote of the people.

The Aurora City Council plans to put the question to voters in November.

“I’m sure that there’s going to be similar initiatives appearing across Colorado,” said Tim Schutz, an attorney and chairman of the Colorado Springs Initiative Review Committee.

Wind, who is leading the effort to ban dispensaries, said the proposal is “not a commentary on medical marijuana.”

When voters approved Amendment 20, they didn’t expect a proliferation of dispensaries, he said. Colorado Springs went from a handful of dispensaries in early 2009 to more than 100 today, according to city officials.

“Give me a break. There’s not that many sick people proportionally to the amount of medical marijuana centers (or dispensaries),” he said. “It defies logic.”

Call the writer at 476-1623

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