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Some Palmer Lake residents vow to keep fighting for recreational marijuana

By: carol MCGRAW and Garrison Wells The Gazette
April 2, 2014 Updated: April 2, 2014 at 8:06 pm
Caption +
The Palmer Lake Town Hall. Photo by Susannah Kay, The Gazette

Even though Palmer Lake's recreational marijuana measure was voted down Tuesday, the smoke hasn't settled on the issue.

Already, proponents are poised to get names on petitions to place it on the ballot again in November.

"We aren't surprised it lost because there was a lot of last-minute propaganda out there, tactics that used misinformation, religion, ignorance, politics and fear," said Dino Salvatori, owner of Palmer Lake Wellness Center, a medical marijuana dispensary.

Salvatori said he believes better voter education will do the trick the next time around, considering the measure lost by 57 votes, 481 to 538.

He and others in the organization, Citizens for a Peaceful Palmer Lake, point out the measure would bring in much needed tax money to the town of about 2,500 people.

"Our town needs money. Our fire department and police department are in need, and the roads are full of potholes," Salvatori said.

"Indeed that revenue would be awesome," said long-time resident Judy Michali. "I voted for it and I will vote for it again."

The small, quaint community 24 miles north of Colorado Springs saw a record voter turnout in Tuesday's election.

Manitou Springs remains the only town in El Paso County that has approved recreational marijuana shops. The Manitou Springs City Council approved it with a 6-1 vote on Jan. 21, however many in Manitou pushing for a public vote on the issue, as Palmer Lake had.

Colorado Springs City Council turned it down.

Recreational pot didn't fall everywhere, however.

Voters in the Mesa County town of De Beque voted to allow recreational pot sales 69 to 65.

Voters in Fruita voted the measure down and Collbran voters voted to support a retail marijuana ban in a non-binding advisory question giving the town council guidance.

Retail shops are allowed in about 30 communities, proponents said, including Denver, Pueblo, Boulder, Durango and mountain communities such as Telluride, Aspen and Breckenridge.

Marijuana is illegal nationally, but the feds have decided to relax prosecutions in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Colorado voters in 2012 approved recreational marijuana, and in January, Colorado pot merchants opened their doors to the public at large, instead of only those with medical marijuana cards.

Washington is the only other state to legalize recreational pot.

Amendment 64 gives communities the power to approve or to turn down retail recreational sales, and communities are turning it down in increasing numbers.

Voting against sales seems to be a trend, said Sean McAllister, a Denver marijuana dispensary attorney who is also spokesman for Colorado NORML, (National Organization to Reform Marijuana).

"Turning it down guarantees it will be unregulated and that more will be grown in homes near children," he said. "And it certainly won't help the intent of Amendment 64 to get rid of the black market."

Of those contacted by The Gazette, only a few said they voted against the measure but declined to be quoted.

Alicia Gatti, general manager of the Depot Restaurant & Lounge and a long-time Palmer Lake resident, said she didn't have a preference about whether the issue passed of failed. Her concern was where the money would be spent if it passed.

"It didn't matter with me the way it went," she said. "The town needs the money just like everybody else, but I was concerned that once they got the revenue, how were they going to spend it, that it wasn't just money that was being put in somebody's pocket."

Jeannine Engel, owner of Rock House Ice Cream, however, said she is confident the city will find other ways to raise money.

"I think the community has spoken," she said. "The citizens have said what they want."

Neither believed the way the vote went will affect their businesses.

"In the summer time, with all kinds of people coming through, I don't think one thing would have made any difference one way or another," said Engel, a third-generation Palmer Lake resident.

Even though the community rejected recreational marijuana, it can be bought elsewhere and used at home.

Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo West is a popular retail outlet for both recreational and medical marijuana in Southern Colorado and the parking lot is always full.

Marisol owner Mike Stettler said he was surprised that Palmer Lake turned it down.

"Wow, that is too bad," he said. "Colorado voters made it legal, so it's almost like double jeopardy, unconstitutional to let a few people vote it down again."

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