April 7, 2014 Updated: April 8, 2014 at 9:18 am
One week after Palmer Lake voters shot down the notion of allowing recreational marijuana sales in their northern El Paso County town, residents eight miles to the north are heading to the polls to decide whether Larkspur will become the only Douglas County municipality to allow pot stores.
And Tuesday's election is drawing interest beyond the Larkspur limits, said town manager Matt Krimmer. Larkspur held a public meeting Thursday "to let the public and the surrounding communities voice their opinions on the subject," he said.
According to Krimmer, about 85 to 90 people showed up for the session and an overwhelming majority were there to speak out against bringing pot sales to the town of 187 people.
"I would say probably 95 percent of the people that attended that meeting were against it," Krimmer said.
Palmer Lake residents voted 538 to 481 against recreational marijuana sales April 1 in an election that brought a record number of voters in the town of about 2,500 people.
Palmer Lake had already allowed medical marijuana dispensaries after a 2010 decision. That legalization gives stark contrast to the situation in Larkspur, which voted against medical pot in its 2012 election.
Krimmer said Larkspur had a 90 percent voter turnout with the medical marijuana question on the ballot.
"Typically the turnout is something around 50 or 60 percent," he said, noting that legalizing medical dispensaries was "defeated by a 2-to-1 margin."
Despite the voting history and recent meeting in which Larkspur residents spoke out against pot sales, Krimmer is not willing to predict Tuesday's result.
"I'm not speculating on anything," Krimmer said. "And I don't believe the council is, either."
If Larkspur votes to legalize recreational marijuana sales, it could become a mecca for pot users. Larkspur sits about halfway between Manitou Springs to the south and Denver to the north, where pot stores have already been allowed. Denver is about 38 miles away with Manitou lying about 35 miles from the town.
Denver outlets opened Jan. 1 as soon as was allowed under Colorado Constitutional Amendment 64 and the Manitou Springs council legalized sales Jan. 21 with a 6-1 vote. Amendment 64 legalized personal possession of up to an ounce of pot and up to six marijuana plants. It also allows municipalities to make their own decisions on whether to legalize recreational marijuana sales.
There are not yet pot stores in Manitou Springs, but the first applicant will go before the town's planning commission Wednesday. If Bill Conkling gets approval from the planning commission, his application would go before the city council in early May, said the town's planning director Wade Burkholder. Once council gives its OK, Conkling would be allowed to open a marijuana store on his property at 141 Manitou Ave., east of downtown.
Conkling, who also owns the Maggie's Farm medical marijuana centers, told The Gazette in early February that he was aiming for a possible April 20 opening. April 20 is dubbed "4/20" by pot users as a day to celebrate marijuana. But Conkling's application was stalled by a multi-tiered process in which he first had to get state approval before moving his application to the town of Manitou Springs.
Larkspur voters Tuesday will also vote on two more marijuana-related ballot questions. The first would enact an ordinance prescribing town regulations for marijuana businesses. The second would impose a 5 percent marijuana excise tax. Also on the ballot are four candidates vying for three open town council seats.