If Manitou Springs wants even worse economic challenges, in the wake of fire and floods, all it must do is allow storefront sales of recreational pot.
Manitou Springs is artistic, musical, organic and wholesome. It makes visitors feel like they've escaped the real world for a moment in paradise at the base of Pikes Peak. Ruining this weird, cool and family friendly gem of the Front Range will require nothing more than a move to make it a destination for drug tourists. Given that nearly all other jurisdictions in the region have forbade recreational pot sales, Manitou will be well known as a drug pit. The drug reputation will overshadow all other characteristics of the village.
Most business leaders in Manitou understand that recreational stoners are not the people who bring large families to local restaurants. They're not, in general, the genre of tourists who ride the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak. They're not the people who rent high-end hotel rooms while taking children to Seven Falls, Cave of the Winds, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade and other area businesses and attractions.
Manitou Springs flourishes because of families, most of which are headed by parents who try to distance children from drugs. Legalize commercial sales of marijuana and the City Council will send an immediate and powerful message to families throughout the metro area, Colorado and the United States. That message: Avoid Manitou Springs, where city officials chose marijuana over families with children. When visiting the region, they'll say, stay in Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Monument, Green Mountain Falls or other area jurisdictions that have said no to recreational pot sales.
The dismay that Manitou would even consider recreational sales was best summarized by Manitou Resident Kari Kilroy. She spoke during a Nov. 12 work session of council, where a standing room-only crowd pressured elected officials to forego plans to allow recreational pot sales.
"I never dreamed I would be begging my public officials to not let drugs in my town," Kilroy said.
Society consists of multiple philosophies regarding the ideal size, scope and charter of government. Republicans, Democrats, the right, left and middle can agree to differ on the need for an all-out "war on drugs." That's not what this is about. Residents and business owners in Manitou merely want City Hall to avoid facilitating drug transactions for recreation.
Some business leaders and residents have threatened to leave Manitou if council members go through with this. It's possible, in the likely event this experiment goes awry, that Manitou ends up with a lot less desirable tourism and a lot more who come to town just to get high. Sure, each joint will generate a bit of tax revenue. But those taxes could come at the cost of consumers and businesses that generate considerably more. Penny wise and pound foolish? The risk is high, to say the least.
Parents already have an uphill battle keeping children off drugs. Miley Cyrus, the former star of hit children's show "Hannah Montana" - produced through early 2011 - smoked pot on stage this month in Amsterdam because she thought it would be "really funny." Really unfunny is the message she sent millions of children and young adults who want to be just like her.
Life is best when lived without the need for an artificial fix. Recreational drug use is not funny to parents who want their children to study and choose paths that will make them happy and functional members of society.
Manitou has long been a family friendly town. The day city leaders choose to facilitate recreational drug use is the day Manitou goes the way of Cyrus - a former talent who spites herself in a desperate effort to remain relevant. The day city leaders embrace recreational pot sales is the day families start to avoid Manitou Springs in droves.