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EDITORIAL: Palmer Lake, just vote no on recreational marijuana

By: The Gazette editorial
April 1, 2014 Updated: April 1, 2014 at 8:45 am
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Pristine, family-friendly Palmer Lake will go through an unfortunate transformation if a majority of voters choose to legalize recreational sales of pot in Tuesday's election. Voters, don't be fooled. Avoid this needless risk.

The Town of Palmer Lake's website explains the community's beautiful and warranted image.

"The railroad is still an important part of our town, along with restaurants, businesses, homes, and access to our beautiful mountains," states the first block of words on the site. It is "a quaint town nestled at the base of the National Forest. Population is estimated at around 2,200 people."

During Christmas and other winter holidays, the town displays a giant lighted star on the east face of Sundance Mountain. It is seen by surrounding communities, subdivisions and motorists on I-25. On the Fourth of July, the star is red, white and blue.

The east edge of the community features beautiful baseball fields below high-end homes perched on a bluff. It's hard to imagine a more attractive environment for families with children.

If voters make Palmer Lake one of two communities in El Paso County to legalize sales of recreational marijuana, the distinguished small town will be known mostly for one thing: pot.

It will lose its quaint, upscale, family friendly image. As Pueblo County has learned, commercial sales will create a preferred destination for homeless people with substance abuse problems. Easier access to pot attracts people who want pot. It's that simple. While a city the size of Denver can absorb a new influx of drug users, the phenomenon will dramatically change a village that consists of a few thousand residents.

Even worse, easier access to pot will make the drug more available to children. Pot prohibition hasn't worked as well as some might like, but it has created a barrier to access that assists parents in keeping children off drugs. Sane individuals would never advocate more recreational marijuana use by minors, so they shouldn't enact laws which have that effect as an unintended consequence.

Yes, everyone knows Palmer Lake could use an economic shot in the arm. The lake is dry and the community suffers a dearth of primary employers. More marijuana may only exacerbate economic problems. It will make the community less attractive to businesses, entrepreneurs and parents. Furthermore, pot revenues have only been a disappointment in other jurisdictions.

In January, Colorado collected only $2 million in taxes on recreational sales. That is far below the rate anticipated by legislative analysts and Gov. John Hickenlooper's budget office. The $2 million in tax proceeds tells us the state did about $14 million in January sales. State officials anticipated more than $190 million in the first six months of 2014. To reach $190 million in six months, sales would need to average more than $31 million in a month - more than double January's mark. And January was the month when the industry benefited from opening-month buzz. People traveled to Colorado just to be part of it all.

If pot revenues disappoint the state, Palmer Lake can expect similar disappointment on a smaller scale.

Palmer Lake, it just isn't worth risking what you have. Just vote "no" on recreational sales.

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