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Manitou City Council hears debate about retail pot

By: MATT STEINER matt.steiner@gazette.com
August 13, 2013 Updated: August 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm
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More than 20 people stood up Tuesday night at the Manitou Springs City Hall to share their thoughts on the debate over the potential sale of recreation marijuana sales.

Although the Colorado Springs City Council reaffirmed its ban on retail pot Tuesday, it appears Manitou Springs is in no hurry to make a decision.

Public opinion was virtually split down the middle as the Manitou Springs City Council held a work session in an attempt to decide which way it will vote at a future meeting.

Mayor Marc Snyder said earlier this summer that he believed the council would likely side with the 68 percent of the town's voters who backed Amendment 64 in November 2012.

He said on Tuesday that he has yet to make up his mind. Snyder said the session was simply a chance for council to listen to each side of the debate, digest it and think about it.

"I don't see any time issue here," Snyder said. "It's more important that we get it right rather than get it done quickly."

In fact, any governmental entity that bans retail sales of pot now could reverse the decision later.

Amendment 64 legalized limited possession and cultivation of marijuana in Colorado and allows for local municipalities and counties to make their own decisions about allowing retail sales.

Mark Slaugh, owner of iComply an organization that helps marijuana businesses comply with the law, argued that legal retail stores would allow safety to prevail. He said that with the current black market system, standards are nonexistent, create health risks and encourage crime.

Dr. Ken Finn, a doctor who sat on Gov. John Hickenlooper's task force on Amendment 64 regulation, talked about negative health effects that he said would invade Manitou Springs if pot was readily available. He said there would be an deterioration in mental health among kids exposed to marijuana and argued there would be more fatal car wrecks caused by impaired driving.

Several citizens sided with Finn with comments such as, "We need to do what's respectful and responsible for our kids."

Others argued that the will of the voters must be respected. One commenter said he is a native of the Pikes Peak region and said he believes "this is the most effective way to clean up the black market in this area. As a native I know there is a big black market in this area."

More than one Manitou Springs business owner talked about the "wrong element" coming into town.

Snyder said the council would have time to mull the comments and could vote on the issue as early as Aug. 20, but may take longer before a vote is taken.

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