The most constructive move of the Colorado Springs City Council during the past year was a 5-4 vote to ban recreational marijuana sales. It was a decision to protect our partnership with the military - the largest single element of the region's economy - and to keep Colorado Springs friendly to parents and teachers who work hard to keep children off drugs.
So it's hard to believe the council may invite voters to initiate recreational marijuana sales without so much as the burden of a petition.
The pot issue, which had been nicely shelved last summer when the council voted against it, reemerged at a council work session this week. Councilwoman Jill Gaebler asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would put the matter to voters. If she can get four colleagues to vote her way, the matter will appear on November's ballot. A question would ask voters if the city should regulate marijuana sales the way it regulates booze. Given voter approval, the ballot measure would require the council to enact rules and regulations for the commercial sale of recreational pot.
"For me, it's more about letting the people vote on this, something the state collectively agreed we should do," Gaebler said. "City Council didn't allow that voice to be heard a year ago."
That is not correct. Amendment 64 doesn't only offer the option of legal pot. It offers the option of pot prohibition. Coloradans collectively voted to grant the people elected to control city and county governments the authority to determine whether to allow sales within their jurisdictions. When the council voted against marijuana sales, they exercised good judgment and the authority voters gave them. They led, which is what voters elected them to do.
If last summer's decision is crosswise with local values, voters have the opportunity to take charge. They have the right to petition for an election. Based on the number of votes cast in the 2011 mayoral election, petitioners would need 19,861 signatures in a city of nearly a half-million residents. If they cannot get them, it probably indicates widespread acceptance of the council's ban on pot sales. If they can get the signatures, they're entitled to a vote.
No contemporary state or country has been this loose and free with recreational marijuana, and we have no idea how much damage may result. Moreover, this experiment involves a new industrial grade substance with unknown side effects, although early indications are that this pot destroys young minds to a level beyond anything we have seen. Young Colorado children encounter almost no barriers to obtaining high-potency pot in communities that allow commercial sales. It's likely this experiment will not end well for communities such as Denver, Manitou Springs and others that have declined to exercise the ban option of Amendment 64. This story has played out before in Amsterdam, Detroit and Baltimore. All found that loose pot laws led to health, safety and social problems beyond what they could have imagined - and that was with marijuana 1/5 the potency of what we sell in Colorado.
Council members who voted against commercial sales last summer include: Snider, Joel Miller, Merv Bennett, Andy Pico and Don Knight.
Those who voted against the ban include: Gaebler, Jan Martin, Keith King and Helen Collins.
Revenues from commercial sales are an abysmal disappointment and the costs to counter the negative effects could more than offset the gains.
Don't jeopardize our youths in pursuit of insignificant revenues. Do not stress our relationship with the military. Do not diminish the region's stature as a family-friendly destination. Councilwoman Gaebler, please drop this. Leave the council's decision in place. If the electorate really wants commercialized pot, they'll petition onto the ballot.