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Manitou Springs group seeks to ban retail marijuana

November 5, 2013 Updated: November 6, 2013 at 6:39 am

Manitou Springs' moratorium on retail marijuana shops is set to expire at the end of the year, and a group of residents and business owners wants to ban them permanently.

Tim Haas, who owns Manitou High Sportswear, 958 Manitou Ave., is treasurer of the group "No Retail Marijuana Shops in Manitou." He said the intention is to circulate a petition in January and gather enough signatures to place a retail-sales question on next year's ballot.

"Manitou Springs faces a dilemma, because once the moratorium expires at the end of this year, medical marijuana establishments will have the option to apply for retail licenses," Haas said. "We are hoping the City Council will extend the moratorium until November, when citizens have had the opportunity to assess whether or not they really want our town to be the only municipality selling marijuana."

In November of last year, Manitou Springs voters approved Amendment 64 by 67 percent. The amendment legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado. Cities and counties can set regulations for marijuana sales or ban the sales.

Manitou Springs residents were voting Tuesday on whether to implement a sales tax should there be retail marijuana sales in the city. Mayor Marc Snyder expressed confidence the council would revisit the issue after vote.

The temporary ban of retail pot sales will give the council time to assess the pros and cons and consider what the industry could bring to the city. Snyder said the city will not process dispensary applications while the moratorium is in place.

He previously stated the city could channel some of the revenue from a sales tax on pot into much-needed repairs and flood-prevention work.

"City Council had some discussions about whether or not they were going to put an advisory question on Tuesday's ballot about their feelings on retail pot. In my opinion, they unwisely chose not to do so," Haas said.

Because the petition cannot be circulated until January and residents are split on the issue, iManitou board members decided not to take action or adopt a stance on retail pot or the petition, said Marcy Morrison, chief executive officer.

"At the chamber, we are just so busy trying to recover from this summer and fall's natural disasters that marijuana is less of a priority," Morrison said. "Nothing can be done about this in 2013, so when the next year rolls in and the petition is activated, then we'll consider the issue."

The city attorney informed Haas and his group of about 20 people that the petition drive can run from January through June, when it would have to be turned in with a minimum of 200 signatures to be placed on next year's ballot, Haas said.

"I've had more than 200 people call me and pledge to sign the petition, so I am confident that we'll get all the signatures we need, and more," Haas said.

With the Colorado Springs City Council and other area jurisdictions shooting down retail pot sales, Manitou Springs could become the only town in El Paso County allowing them. In April, Palmer Lake residents will be asked whether they support retail pot, after 54.6 percent of their voters backed Amendment 64 last year.

"If Colorado Springs had said yes, then this wouldn't really be an issue," Haas said. "But Manitou Springs is a tourism-driven city and we've already been challenged with last year's and this year's natural disasters; we don't need to create another challenge for the existing businesses."

Haas did not ignore the fact that a considerable majority of his town's voters backed Amendment 64, but he believes the social and economic pros and cons have not been explored thoroughly.

"The mission of this group is not to pass moral judgment on the decriminalization of marijuana use by adults. We just want to ask voters what they really want," Haas said. "If they say yes, then so be it, and I may not agree, but at least everyone will have a chance to get educated and make an informed decision."

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