Nonprofit group aims to get recreational pot on Colorado Springs November ballot

By: John Schroyer, The Gazette
April 10, 2014 Updated: April 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

Colorado Springs voters may get another chance to legalize recreational marijuana sales this November.

A ballot measure that's been in the works for months is on the verge of being filed with the city clerk's office, said Mark Slaugh, director of the nonprofit Every Vote Counts.

The ballot measure, Slaugh said Thursday afternoon, would overturn a July Colorado Springs City Council resolution in which council members voted 5-4 to opt out of recreational sales.

"The initiative has been drafted. It's ready to be proposed to city council," said Slaugh. "This is a great opportunity to create 1,000 jobs and also the opportunity to bring in millions in revenue."

"It could be the saving grace to have pot for potholes," he quipped.

Currently, Manitou Springs is the only municipality in El Paso County that allows recreational marijuana sales after its city council voted 6-1 to approve it in January.

Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana but allowed municipalities to opt in or out of the practice, passed in Colorado Springs by 4,947 votes, and in El Paso County by 10 votes.

The possible ballot measure has two avenues to reach the voters for the November election: either the city council can vote to refer it to the ballot, or Every Vote Counts can petition it, which would take at least 19,861 voter signatures.

Slaugh is hedging his bets, and says Every Vote Counts wants to work with council members to find a middle ground with ballot language that's agreeable to both sides. But, he said, Every Vote Counts volunteers are standing ready with a goal of 40,000 signatures.

"The idea is to work with council, not against them," Slaugh said. "If we go and gather signatures, then they (council) run the risk of us putting down whatever we want, and not having something that's palatable to the leadership of the city."

Council President Keith King said that might work.

King was one of the four council members who voted against the ban last year, because Amendment 64 was passed by a majority in Council District 3, which he represents. King said the key will likely be in the negotiations and whether Every Vote Counts can reach an agreement with council members on the initiative language.

Then, King said, it's a question of letting the people decide.

"You might get all the conservatives to vote to put it on the ballot. (Councilwoman) Helen (Collins) might even do it," King said. "Because we've made statements that we'd be willing to put City for Champions on the ballot. This is a very similar issue, about taxation and what we allow in the city."

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