Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Will Colorado Springs council allow pot sales? Answer may come July 23

By Monica Mendoza Published: July 9, 2013

With six City Council members split and three undecided over whether to allow retail marijuana sales in Colorado Springs, the city attorney will draft two ordinances: one banning sales and one that will allow them after November's election.

The council is expected to decide the issue July 23. For now, the council is split, with Jan Martin, Jill Gaebler and president Keith King saying they would vote to regulate retail marijuana stores.

On the other side are Joel Miller, Andy Pico and Merv Bennett, who say the state law conflicts with federal law.

Council members Val Snider, Helen Collins and Don Knight said they are undecided. However, Collins said in her campaign that voters approved Amendment 64 - the state law that allows municipalities to regulate retail marijuana sales like alcohol sales - and the city should not try to override the will of the people.

If the council allows retail marijuana sales, it would open the door to pot stores, grow operations, testing facilities, and manufacturing of foods, drinks and other products made with marijuana.

The city also could adopt its own licensing program for retail marijuana facilities to run alongside the state licensing program. Colorado Springs has a dual licensing program for its medical marijuana businesses.

King said he would vote to regulate, but only if Colorado voters approve a tax measure in November. The measure asks voters to approve a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on retail marijuana sales. He wants a moratorium on sales until after the election.

"There is going to be a cost to our society for some of the issues, just like there is a cost for issues associated with alcohol," King said. "There needs to be a way of monitoring those costs. My support is contingent on whether it is taxed."

No part of the retail marijuana business sounds good to Bennett, who said he wants to ban sales. He is not convinced that allowing retail marijuana stores will eliminate black market marijuana sales.

"After listening to commanding generals, UCCS, CVB, the Business Alliance, the fire chief, the police chief, the mayor and the work our neighbors have done in Woodland Park - I do not want to put us on the cutting edge."

At a June 27 town hall meeting, the majority of 60 residents who spoke on the issue favored regulating marijuana sales. Proponents also spoke Tuesday.

KC Stark, owner of Studio A64, a social club for cannabis users, said medical marijuana dispensary owners are primary employers who should not be overlooked in the city's overall economic health. There are 86 medical marijuana centers in the city, he said.

"I could not find 86 Starbucks, or 86 Wal-Marts or 86 McDonalds," he said. "When we talk about primary employers, we are your primary employers."

Stark said Colorado Springs has an opportunity to be part of a historic event - ending marijuana prohibition.

"How can we tell our children this is America if we can't even respect the vote of the people?" he said.

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