Mayor Steve Bach says he'll veto retail marijuana sales

By Monica Mendoza Updated: July 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm • Published: July 22, 2013 | 10:10 pm 0

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach will veto any action taken by the City Council that would allow retail marijuana sales for recreational use, he said Monday.

Bach said the Springs needs to join neighboring cities, including Woodland Park and Castle Rock, and ban such sales.

"This is so important to our community and in our best interest that I will respectfully need to veto anything short of opting out," Bach said.

City Council is expected to discuss two possible options Tuesday: Ban retail sales of marijuana for recreational use; or, allow sales, but delay them until after the November election when Colorado voters will be asked to tax the sales of pot for recreational use.

If the council votes to ban sales, the discussion is over, said Keith King, council president. If it decides to allow sales, but delay them until after November, the council would need to decide how it wants to set up the licensing process.

Bach said, though, he also would veto the moratorium option. He plans to address the council Tuesday during its discussion.

Bach has used veto power in the past, but never on an ordinance. In 2011, he vetoed a half-dozen line items from the 2012 city budget, which had been approved by the council.

It would take a two-thirds vote by council to overturn a veto by the mayor, "and council does not have that," King said of the marijuana issue.

The council appears to be split 5-to-4 in favor of regulating marijuana sales, and it would take six votes to overturn a veto.

City Council member Don Knight said Monday that he will vote against allowing retail marijuana sales in the city. He joins three other council members - Merv Bennett, Andy Pico and Joel Miller - who have said they are against retail pot sales in the city.

Colorado Springs business owner KC Stark said residents already have spoken on the issue. They voted for Amendment 64, which allows adults over age 21 to possess up to one ounce of cannabis. Amendment 64 passed by just 10 votes in El Paso County.

The law also allows cities to either regulate the sales of marijuana like alcohol or ban sales. Already, more than 20 Colorado cities have banned marijuana sales for recreational use.

The Colorado Springs City Council hosted a town hall meeting June 27 to hear the community's views. About 60 people spoke - with the majority in favor of regulating marijuana. However, representatives from the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and the military spoke against marijuana sales, saying such a move could jeopardize the military's future presence and scare away contractors interested in locating in the Springs.

Until now, Knight had been one of two council members who said they were undecided on the issue, making him and council member Val Snider, the deciding votes. If council members King and Helen Collins honor their campaign promises, they will vote to regulate marijuana sales and join council members Jill Gaebler and Jan Martin.

Knight issued a statement outlining his "no" vote Monday, one day ahead of the council discussion and vote. He said he hosted three town hall meetings in District 1 on the issue and talked with many constituents. He said he read studies, visited a medical marijuana facility, spoke with military and business leaders, marijuana shop owners and Cannabis organizations before he made his decision. "I felt I researched this very extensively," he said. "I felt it was only fair to the public, who might come (Tuesday) that they know this is where I stand."

Knight said his chief concern is keeping marijuana from the hands of children.

He also said a threat of losing military and military contractors is too great in comparison to the projected $3.9 million in sales tax that could be put into the city's general fund through sales tax on marijuana.

"I have concluded that licensing recreational sales would increase use among minors through an added degree of acceptability," he said.

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