June 9, 2013 Updated: June 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm
I support allowing retail sales of marijuana in Colorado Springs for many of the same reasons I supported allowing medical marijuana dispensaries when I was on City Council. It's always been an issue of freedom for me, and of states' rights. Prohibition obviously has been a disaster. And we so rarely see an expansion of liberty in the so-called Land of the Free that I wanted to help make this one work.
I didn't believe it served the city's interests to disrespect voters, or to trample on newfound freedoms simply because the new rules confused the work of law enforcers or complicated the conversations we have with our kids about the dangers of drugs. I feel the same way today, as I'm guessing most locals do.
Roll the video and you'll see that the debate we're having now strongly echoes the one we had back then - with one major difference, which is that we've been this way before and don't have to re-blaze the trail. We aren't starting from scratch. Much of the initial mystery (and anxiety) regarding this topic has dissipated. We now have the advantage of hindsight, and years of experience on which to draw as we work through issues of accommodating, monitoring, regulating and taxing these newly legal enterprises.
No city is better prepared than Colorado Springs to get this right. But we won't get that chance unless reasonable people respectfully tune out the reactionaries, as they did when medical marijuana was the bogeyman. Don't you remember that debate?
Then, as now, some came rushing to council chambers full of dire warnings about the lawlessness that would erupt if we surrendered even an inch to the Medical Marijuana menace. That didn't happen. Then, as now, we were warned of the corrupting influence such shops would have on our youth, and of how a welcoming attitude toward such businesses would stigmatize and shame the city, possibly undermining its business appeal. That didn't happen. Then, as now, there were those who wanted to either bury their heads in the sand, by pushing an outright ban, or find roundabout ways to regulate away these newfound rights. I'm proud to recall that that didn't happen either.
Most locals seemed willing to shelve what anxieties they had, take a deep breath and move forward, respecting the will of the voters. Conservative old Colorado Springs defied expectations by discounting the naysayers and methodically working through a process that struck a balance between voter-approved freedoms and reasonable concerns regarding public safety. And the city is better off today as a result.
That experience, working through these issues with enlightened council colleagues and the city's medical marijuana task force, makes me an optimist about our chances of getting this right. We've done it before. We can do it again. But we won't get the chance if we don't give it a try.
Sean Paige co-chaired the city's medical marijuana task force during his time on City Council. These views are his own, and not those of any organizations with whom he's formally associated.