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Gazette editorial: Council gets it right on marijuana

By: The Gazette editorial
September 12, 2014 Updated: September 12, 2014 at 4:05 am

It's official. Colorado Springs says no to marijuana. Community leaders have made clear their desire to make life easier for military officers, parents, teachers and others who must keep young people off drugs.

For weeks, the Colorado Springs City Council had fiddled with the bad idea of putting a proposal for recreational pot sales on the ballot next spring. They did the right thing Tuesday by defeating the proposal with a 6-3 vote. We hope the council will move forward from here with more constructive pursuits.

The community will undoubtedly hear noise about the possibility of a public petition for a recreational sales vote, but that's a long way around. Petitioners would need at least 19,861 valid signatures. After crossing that threshold, they would have to sell the proposal - without any perceived council imprimatur - to a community of voters known for upholding conservative values. Deep pockets probably wouldn't help them much.

By reiterating their opposition to recreational sales, council members joined the Regional Business Alliance, county commissioners and nearly all the region's communities in rejecting pot. Their objections are diverse, but all have expressed respect for the marijuana concerns expressed by military leadership.

The City Council's decision means the Pikes Peak region will remain a family-friendly tourist destination. It means we won't put more marijuana into the environments of children. It means we're serious about protecting and building on our important niche as a host for Fort Carson, Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases, the United States Air Force Academy and other military operations.

Recreational marijuana stores are everywhere in Denver, where city leaders subjected the community to a dangerous public policy experiment that's bound to go bad. They did so with hope marijuana sales would generate a windfall of new tax revenues. It would mostly kill off the illicit market, which had been selling the drug without creating any revenue stream for government.

State officials anticipated pulling in more than $33 million from sales in just the first six months. That didn't happen. In fact, revenues fell $21 million short of state expectations in the first two quarters.

Politicians are learning how market forces have more control of human behavior than laws designed to generate cash.

"The problem is that buying pot is less expensive on the streets where people don't have to pay taxes or fees," explained an investigative report by Denver's CBS 4.

So much for harming the black market.

Then there's the matter of medicinal marijuana and its significantly lower tax overhead. It's exactly the same drug, only buyers need a doctor's note.

"Medical marijuana is also less expensive than recreational pot, so those with medical cards are sticking to buying that way," CBS 4 reported.

Though the medicinal marijuana market isn't problem free, it's better regulated than the candy-counter trade taking place in recreational stores.

Denver's anything-goes marijuana laws are turning a great city into the butt of jokes all over the world. The restraint of local politicians - their willingness to forgo a new revenue source - will give Colorado Springs a new niche. For the military, Colorado-bound businesses, professionals and families, this will be the city that isn't best known for a drug. This will be the city that chose to stay clean.

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