The Manitou Springs City Council will decide Tuesday whether to make their city the only place in El Paso County to buy and sell recreational marijuana.
If they go through with their plans, they will transform a family-friendly tourist town into one of a handful of places throughout the world in which obtaining marijuana will be no more difficult than buying candy and a soda.
It doesn't look cool, and it does look risky.
The City Council gave 6-1 approval to recreational sales Jan. 7, and Tuesday's vote could be the final move.
Before city politicians commit the community to jumping off this cliff, we hope they revisit some important questions:
- Will this create more jobs in Manitou Springs, aside from a few retail position in two small stores? Probably not. In fact, it could have the devastating effect of running some good businesses from town or causing others to avoid the community when looking for relocation options.
- Will a decision to sell recreational marijuana attract more families to visit? Probably not, given the fact parents already face an uphill battle trying to keep children off pot - a drug that can negatively affect their brain development. Commercial, recreational sales are likely to make marijuana more available to all demographics - including children. In the unlikely event that's not true, the perception will remain, and a significant number of visitors will steer clear.
- Will commercial pot sales attract more people to use the Cog Railway? Probably not. In fact, the people who run the railway anticipate a drop in business, along with an assortment of problems, as a result. If they're correct, the problems will probably translate into fewer visitors patronizing the community's restaurants and shops.
- Will recreational pot sales draw more people to town for climbs up and down the Manitou Incline? It's a good bet the Incline will be negatively affected like everything else. Right or wrong, people who don't want family members or themselves exposed to marijuana will choose another place to hike and enjoy the great outdoors. Colorado offers seemingly countless good options.
- How much money will pot sales generate in revenue, relative to what the trade might cost? It's hard to view a weed, sold to alter a person's moods and perceptions, as a legitimate form of wealth.
It is also difficult to believe commercial sales of recreational marijuana will leave Manitou Springs the place it has been throughout its history. As the lone commercial pot source in the state's most populous county, Manitou will certainly become a magnate for recreational drug users.
Just as two small stores draw people to town for only one reason, they will keep people away who would otherwise bring transactions to an assortment of businesses and attractions.
This is a decision only the elected leaders of Manitou Springs can make. It's their call. We only hope they know exactly what they're doing, because the risks seem to outweigh any potential rewards.
Council members, it is not too late to keep Manitou Springs the place Americans know and love. It's eclectic and weird, yet innocent and safe. It isn't broken, so why attempt to fix it? Don't risk turning a gem of the Pikes Peak Region into a place known first and foremost for pot. It's the farthest thing from cool.