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Recreational marijuana ballot proposal unlikely in Colorado Springs this year

March 29, 2018 Updated: March 30, 2018 at 6:14 am
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Colorado Springs resident Jim Coonradt smells a marijuana sample container at Emerald Fields, Manitou Springs' second and final recreational marijuana shop, which opened on Manitou Avenue Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

It's increasingly unlikely that a recreational marijuana referendum will appear on Colorado Springs' November ballot.

Advocates for legalizing recreational marijuana sales in Colorado Springs strongly lobbied for a ballot question in last November's election instead of a controversial set of stormwater fees that voters ultimately passed. Having missed that opportunity, representatives of one group, Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods, said last year they planned to petition onto the 2018 ballot.

On Thursday, spokeswoman Jane Ard-Smith said the group had not started collecting signatures for this year's ballot.

Rich Kwesell, who owns several Strawberry Fields marijuana stores with his brother - said he and others have been meeting with "elected officials, community and business leaders and citizens of Colorado Springs" in recent months, but don't have a ballot measure in the works.

"We are pleased with the response thus far but still have more work to do," Kwesell said, noting that allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in Colorado Springs would provide the local government with millions of dollars of revenue without raising taxes.

Colorado Springs City Clerk Sarah Johnson said no one has filed a notice with her office announcing the intent to petition onto the ballot. Because such a group would have to collect about 20,000 signatures by August, the lack of that paperwork makes a recreational marijuana ballot item highly unlikely, she said.

The Colorado Springs City Council can also vote to place a recreational marijuana item onto the city's ballot. While a majority of the nine council members said last July they support a referendum on the issue, they were split on when the vote might be appropriate.

Aside from the council, a push for a recreational pot vote is unlikely to come from Mayor John Suthers' Office. He has repeatedly said he opposes selling recreational pot in the city.

Last year a University of Denver study commissioned by Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods estimated that the city could raise more than $25 million a year through legalized pot sales. However, Suthers and other city officials have said they believe that figure is too high.

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