Late Tuesday, Palmer Lake residents will know if their town is the second El Paso County municipality to allow retail marijuana stores.
Voters in the northern El Paso County town of about 2,500 have been casting mail-in ballots since late March. The town council voted 4-1 to ban retail pot sales in August, but then decided to put the question on Tuesday's ballot.
"We all want what's best for this community, otherwise we wouldn't be here," said Councilman Mike Maddox at a Jan. 18 town hall meeting where residents, business owners and officials discussed the issue.
Recreational marijuana sales became legal in Colorado Jan. 1. The nearest retail stores to El Paso County opened at that time in Denver and Pueblo County.
If the Palmer Lake electorate legalizes sales, the town will join Manitou Springs, which approved retail marijuana by a 6-1 vote Jan. 21.
Manitou Mayor Pro Tem Coreen Toll said the Manitou council was forced to make the decision because voters in her town overwhelmingly approved Colorado Constitutional Amendment 64 in November 2012 and "because the war on drugs is a failure." Amendment 64 legalized personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and six pot plants. It also allowed cities and counties to decide whether to allow retail sales.
Two medical marijuana licensees have applied for retail licenses in Manitou. The first conditional use application will go before the town's planning commission April 9. If approved, city council will address the application in early May. said Wade Burkholder with the Manitou Springs planning department.
There have been mixed opinions about bringing retail pot to Palmer Lake. One man at the Jan. 18 meeting said the town's "charming community" feel "will be gone forever."
Cyndee Henson, another meeting attendee who has lived in Palmer Lake for almost 40 years, said pot sales would bring in traffic, "but those folks will support us in other ways."
Maddox said it is difficult to know how much tax revenue would be generated by retail marijuana. A medical marijuana dispensary owner in town has speculated that the number could be more than $40,000 per month.
Also on Tuesday's ballot in Palmer Lake is a three-way contest for mayor and a nine-person battle for five city council seats.
Current Mayor Nikki Donald squares off against Meredith Bromfield and Randy C. Fritz for mayor. Council members Shana Ball, Richard Kuehster and Maddox seek re-election while Kathy Aldworth, Cindy Allen, Paul Banta, Trish Flake, Jen Martin and John C. Russell are also vying to join the council.
Also heading to the polls Tuesday are voters in Monument and Green Mountain Falls. Each town will be voting for mayor and three open trustee seats.