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Gazette Premium Content Palmer Lake April election will weigh marijuana sales

By Monica Mendoza Updated: November 3, 2013 at 9:32 am

Palmer Lake residents will be asked in April whether they want their quaint lake town to have stores that sell marijuana for recreational use.

Residents collected enough signatures to push the issue to a town vote.

The Town Council had decided, in a 4-1 vote, to ban the sale of recreational marijuana before a standing-room-only crowd in August. Some residents applauded that decision, saying they didn't want their town of 2,200 to become a haven for pot sales.

But others said the council went against the town's desires. In November 2012, 54.6 percent of Palmer Lake voters backed Amendment 64, which changed the state's constitution to allow people 21 and older to possess and use marijuana for recreational use.

The law also allows cities to regulate the sales of the marijuana in the same way they regulate alcohol sales. But cities can ban sales, and about 50 cities, including Colorado Springs, have done so.

"The majority of voters in Palmer Lake voted for Amendment 64," said Joshua Havens, a resident who helped circulate the petition to overturn the council's decision. "The biggest thing to us was the Town Council voted it out even though residents voted it in."

The petition called for the repeal of the town ordinance that banned pot sales and they collected more than enough signatures to get the issue on a ballot, Havens said.

"I wanted it to go back to a vote of the people," Havens said. "This is the only chance we have to make this a real thing."

The council was faced with two options, said Larry Gaddis, a Colorado Springs attorney who counsels the Palmer Lake Town Council.

The council could have held a special election within 120 days asking voters if they wanted to repeal the pot sale ban. Or, the council could repeal its ordinance and instead ask voters in April, when the town has a scheduled election, if they favor pot sales.

Gaddis said it would have been too expensive to hold a special election, so the council repealed its ordinance and put a moratorium on sales until the vote.

No matter what, the vote in April likely will be close.

The council hosted a public hearing on the issue of recreational marijuana sales at its August town hall meeting and residents were split. Of the 31 speakers, 15 favored regulating the sale of recreational marijuana the way that alcohol is regulated, while 16 residents said they didn't want the town to have anything to do with recreational pot sales.

Residents in Eagle and Englewood will vote Tuesday on whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in their towns and 12 cities in the state, including Manitou Springs, will vote on whether to tax local recreational marijuana sales, according to the Colorado Municipal League, which has been tracking how cities react to passage of Amendment 64.

Havens is confident Palmer Lake residents will vote in April to allow marijuana sales.

His group has a draft ordinance, outlining such things as how far marijuana stores should be from schools and how many stores ought to be allowed, ready to hand to the council after the election, he said.

"If this goes through, and they accept the regulations, they can follow up with a new ordinance," he said.

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