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Larkspur votes down recreational pot

By: Matt steiner
April 8, 2014 Updated: April 8, 2014 at 9:55 pm
Caption +
Larspur residents against the sale of recreational marijuana in the town display signs on Tuesday. Photo by Matt Steiner.

When Larkspur voted against legalizing recreational marijuana sales by an almost a 3-to-1 margin Tuesday, not many in the town of almost 200 people were surprised.

After all, the Douglas County town's voters had denied a bid to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in 2010. And less than a week before Tuesday's election, almost 100 people showed up to a public meeting and overwhelmingly spoke out against a ballot initiative that would have allowed at least three pot stores to open in Larkspur.

Despite the history, Larkspur residents waited nervously for the results after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday. When the results were announced shortly after 8 p.m., 11 people were milling outside town hall, itching for the news.

Clyde Parker, who said he lived in Larkspur for 30 years, was among the small contingent there when the vote of 73 against and 26 in favor of recreational pot sales was announced. Just moments earlier, he had said he planned to move away from Larkspur if the ballot initiative passed.

"I'll put a 'for sale' sign in front of my house ASAP," said Parker, noting that marijuana sales - whether medical or recreational - are simply "not right for Larkspur."

Other town residents, and some from the Perry Park area west of town, lined the road in front of the town hall as the final hours of voting wound down on Tuesday.

The Larkspur vote came one week after Palmer Lake voted 538 to 481 against bringing recreational marijuana sales to the northern El Paso County town.

More than a dozen people against pot sales in Larkspur displayed signs that said things like "You say dope. We say nope. Vote no." Cars driving past honked in approval.

Two people advocated for bringing recreational marijuana sales to town. James McVaney, who could not vote, helped get the initiative on the ballot, despite residing about eight miles west of Larkspur. He said the town needed the tax revenue that could come from marijuana sales, but added that he "wasn't disappointed after the results came in."

"They want to keep their little small town," McVaney said.

Multiple town residents shared their views against marijuana sales as they left the polling place.

Erin Killela, 32, who lives in town with her husband and their two small children, said it is important not to be judgmental toward people who want to use marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. But Killela said she was afraid Larkspur would lose its "family values and open community" feel if pot sales were legalized.

Others worried that a potential increase in taxes to support a police force, which the town doesn't have, might cause an exodus by residents and organizers of the annual Renaissance Festival. The town is home to the festival that brings visitors for at least a month each summer.

Killela also said she didn't want her town to be "a guinea pig for what seems like an experiment at this time."

Larkspur would have become the only Douglas County municipality to have recreational marijuana sales if the initiative passed. The closest municipalities to allow sales are Denver, about 38 miles to the north, and Manitou Springs, about 34 miles to the south.

Denver allowed pot shops to open Jan. 1, but Manitou Springs has not yet issued a license after city council voted 6-1 on Jan. 21 to legalize recreational sales.

The Manitou planning commission will review the first conditional use application Wednesday. If that passes, planning director Wade Burkholder said the license could be approved by the city council as early as May 6. Bill Conkling, the owner of the Maggie's Farm medical marijuana centers, is the applicant.

Larkspur also voted down a ballot question that would have allowed town officials to establish regulations for pot sales. And they voted against another question that would have established a 5 percent excise tax on pot sales. Sandy McKeown, Jeremiah Holmes and Matias Cumsille won the three open town council seats.

Woodland Park also held an election Tuesday. Mayor David Turley was re-elected. He ran uncontested, but councilman Gary Brovetto received 27 write-in votes to Turley's 979. Noel Sawyer, John Schafer and Ken Matthews took the three open council seats. Each of the three also ran uncontested. Woodland Park voters also approved a lodging tax, 820 to 402.

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