Manitou council should reject recreational pot sales

The Gazette editorial Updated: December 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm • Published: December 15, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

The Manitou Springs City Council voted 6-0 last week to extend a moratorium on retail sales of recreational marijuana until its Jan. 31 meeting. The council wants more time to draft and finalize pot shop regulations.

A proposed ordinance would limit pot shops to two and restrict them to commercial areas. The city's two medical marijuana dispensaries would be given first consideration for licenses.

We applaud the council for the delay, but would encourage city leaders to consider a better decision in January. Just say "no" to recreational pot sales. Keep things as they are. Help the Pikes Peak region distinguish itself among Front Range destinations as a place in which parents don't have to worry about nearly unregulated commercial access to a drug they want to keep away from children.

Don't make Manitou Springs among the handful of locations on planet Earth that sell marijuana from store fronts for nothing more than the pursuit of getting stoned.

Those who advocate an end to the war on drugs should already be happy. Colorado has legalized recreational use, possession and limited cultivation of marijuana. Those who want to buy it on Main Street America have the option of overcoming the slight barrier of obtaining a doctor's note and a state permit. Love or hate the system, it's one that allows for retail sales while maintaining a barrier important to those who might otherwise frown on bringing young adults to the region for vacations, tours, conferences or conventions. It's a system that avoids marijuana tourism, which can be the chosen niche of Denver, Boulder and a few other communities that have chosen to accommodate recreational retail sales.

Ask most parents, educators and cops and they'll tell you the system we have has already facilitated an alarming increase of marijuana use among children. Every barrier Colorado has eliminated has led to what law enforcement professionals call a lowering of the "risk/reward" ratio young people use when deciding whether to use a drug. The risk factor is already low enough. Lowering it more will almost certainly mean even more young children and teens getting high and zoning out, rather than doing their homework and excelling in sports. It's sad to even think about the future ramifications of young generations stoning their way through school.

Given the fact nearly all other jurisdictions in the Pikes Peak Region have said "no" to recreational sales, in respect for parents and the military, Manitou stands to become a fly in the ointment if it says "yes." It risks positioning the village as Little Amsterdam at base of America's mountain.

The recreational sales experiment could prove catastrophic to Manitou's economy, as families with children will be likely to avoid the place. Tourists to the Pikes Peak region come from all corners of the United States and from around the world. Though a majority of Coloradans have embraced a progressive attitude about marijuana use, other places don't necessarily share it.

If Manitou leaders choose to allow commercial sales of the drug, they can expect a substantial number of families to bypass their town. They can take direct responsibility if Pentagon officials pass over our region when deciding where to place military personnel, who are supposed to remain drug free.

By contrast, Manitou council has an opportunity to play the final card that distinguishes our metropolitan area as a place of fine public policy discretion.

Marijuana is already easily available, in an above-ground market, in Manitou and throughout the Pikes Peak region. Almost anyone can jump through the hoops to obtain a state permit. Please don't take a risk that's likely to backfire, costing Manitou Springs a lot more than two retail pot shops can possibly generate for the benefit of the town.

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