August 20, 2013 Updated: August 20, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday night delayed approving retail marijuana stores in town until at least Dec. 31, 2013, when the state will have made a decision on the potential tax revenue that can be reaped from such sales.
If the city is able to charge sales tax on pot, it could channel some of that money into much-needed repairs and flood-prevention work, suggested Mayor Marc Snyder.
"I don't want to close any doors right now," Snyder said, stating he didn't want to eliminate the possibility of taxing retail pot altogether. "There may be a situation down the road where these could be much-needed revenues."
The temporary ban of retail pot will give the council time to assess what the industry could bring to the city, Snyder added. In the meantime, the city will not process dispensary applications, explained Snyder.
Also approved Tuesday was a ballot question for voters if they think the city should claim sales tax revenue from marijuana sales - anywhere from zero to 10 percent. If the city decides in the November election it would not like a pot sales tax, the city council could very likely re-evaluate their Tuesday vote, Snyder said.
The pot issue, which had five separate options up for discussion, was complex and required some "legalese" translation. One, labeled option three on the agenda, would have prohibited retail pot sales outright but died after no council members made a motion to vote on it. The six council members present spent the next two hours honing their understanding of the other options - which included two different moratoriums, the sales tax question, and an advisory measure for the November ballot that would evaluate residents' opinions on retail pot. Before any voting, the council had to decide which measure to address first. Councilman Matt Carpenter pushed for the advisory ballot measure, not wanting to come to a decision on retail pot sales and their taxable possibilities before he got a better sense for what the public wanted.
"I have to say that I could not support option number three without knowing what voters say," said Carpenter of the proposed ordinance that would ban sales outright. "It has the ability to put a little fracture in the community for the long term."
Councilwoman Coreen Toll felt that polling residents was redundant - 68 percent of Mantiou's residents already supported a moratorium, she said.
"It's rehashing again," she said.
Crafting the language of the question would take time, and the council disagreed as to how specific the question would be. Ultimately, an advisory ballot measure was struck down on a 4-2 vote.
Next, the council tackled the question of sales tax, and decided on a state-determined range of percentages that they could impose on retail pot sales. That measure, too, will be a one of public opinion on November's ballot - whether or not sales tax should be placed on retail sales. Votes will not determine if there will be tax, or how high it would be; instead, the measure will just gauge public opinion.
Until the council can collect public and state decisions on tax issues, the ban will remain in effect. But the decision is not set in stone. While retail pot sales can technically become legal come the end of the December, the council could re-evaluate. If the city doesn't want to tax the sales, then Snyder sees little point in allowing the stores; the council could also choose to extend the moratorium, he added.
Although the council spent much of the three-hour meeting trying to pin down the specifics of the issue, it seems that there is much left to be decided before the end of the year.
"I know it's a little bit of a moving target," Snyder said.
Some of the communities that have banned pot sales:
El Paso County
Green Mountain Falls
Source: Colorado Municipal League