PALMER LAKE - Saying they didn't want their small, family-friendly town to become the Amsterdam of El Paso County, the Palmer Lake Town Council joined neighboring communities and banned retail marijuana sales.
In a 4-1 vote Thursday, the council approved an ordinance that bans the sale of marijuana for recreational use.
Restaurant owner Mike Elliott said by banning retail marijuana sales, the town was missing out on sales tax revenue that it desperately needed.
"I don't think it would be wise to opt out of a revenue source," Elliott said.
But council member Mike Patrizi said he would rather the town go broke than take a dime for pot sales.
The council's vote to ban marijuana sales for recreational use was met with a mix of applause and loud boos. Residents seemed evenly divided on the issue. Of the 31 speakers, 15 favored regulating the sale of marijuana the way that alcohol is regulated while 16 residents said they didn't want anything to do with recreational pot sales.
Those against retail marijuana sales said the image of the small, quaint town would be tarnished. Instead of visitors coming to Palmer Lake for restaurants and shops they would be coming for drugs.
"We would be eaten up with crime," said resident Michael Tucker.
Council member Michael Maddox said he enjoyed his pot-smoking days in the 1960s. He even wrote a book, "Peace Freak," but he said pot has changed. It's more potent and he didn't want the heartache such hard drugs would bring to the small town, population 2,200.
Even Amsterdam officials were recently quoted in newspapers with concerns over pot potency, he said.
"The research shows we cannot tolerate and cannot have it in our community," he said.
Palmer Lake, 20 miles north of Colorado Springs and neighbor to Monument, joins about 50 municipalities across the state that have banned retail marijuana sales despite voters approving Amendment 64, which allows adults over 21 to possess up to 1 ounce of pot for recreational use and allows cities to set rules and regulations for retail pot sales and stores.
Colorado Springs City Council voted in July to ban sales. Other cities banning sales include Monument, Woodland Park, Green Mountain Falls and Fountain. Earlier this week, Loveland joined the growing list of communities to ban retail marijuana sales.
Manitou Springs may be the last hope for Pikes Peak area residents who want to walk into a store and legally buy pot. The city council will host a work session Aug. 13 to discuss the issue.
Cities must decide if they are in or out by Oct. 1, the state deadline for municipalities to designate the entity that would issue local licenses, which then could be issued Jan. 1, 2014.
So far, about 20 cities, including Pueblo, have put a moratorium on retail sales, a move that buys them time to write some local rules and regulations and watch how other cities fare under the new state law.
In Palmer Lake, Richard Kuehster was the lone council member who wanted to put a moratorium on the issue, see how other cities handled the rules and regulations, and then put the issue to a town vote.
Council member Shana Ball said marijuana is not a harmless drug and she could not support regulating it, now or in the future.
"I want business in Palmer Lake just as much as anyone," Ball said. "But it (pot) is inappropriate for this community and this town. It's not the image I want for this town."