Standing-room only at Manitou Springs: Opposition to retail marijuana makes itself heard

November 13, 2013 Updated: November 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm
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It was standing room only Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, at Venue 515 in Manitou Springs as retail marijuana sales were discussed at the city council work session. (Photo by Matt Steiner)

Residents opposed to bringing retail marijuana sales to Manitou Springs said Tuesday night that the town of about 5,000 has worked too hard over the last decade to shed an image of drug use to throw it all away.

Much of the early public comment during a City Council work session regarding retail pot sales leaned heavily against bringing the industry to the town at the foot of Pikes Peak, although discussions were still underway after 10 p.m. More than a dozen people who spoke in the first half-hour of the controversial discussion were either adamantly against retail pot sales or simply want the town's delay in deciding to be extended.

"We need a grace period," said Ann Rodgers, who lives on Crystal Hills Boulevard. "This is the most culturally, history-making decision in our little town."

Said Kari Kilroy, who lives on Ruxton Avenue: "I never dreamed I would be begging my public officials to not let drugs in my town."

Two of the commenters who opposed retail pot stores even asked those who agreed with them in the crowd of about 200 people to stand up. More than half of the standing-room-only group rose to its feet and cheered loudly.

The tone was very different from a similar work session held in early August. At that meeting, the speakers were virtually split down the middle in their opinions on the subject. By mid-August, council voted to delay its decision until the end of 2013.

A couple of supporters for what Manitou officials have called Retail Marijuana Enterprise spoke in the first 30 minutes of comments that began shortly before 9 p.m.

"I don't see any problem with people smoking pot," said Michael Burgess, who added that he felt outnumbered.

Burgess and Sally Fitzgerald agreed children should not have access to marijuana, but said pot revenues would be good for Manitou.

The meeting came a week after Manitou residents voted in favor of taxing retail pot sales if approved.

Mayor Marc Snyder said council has a lot to iron out before a formal vote will be cast regarding recreation marijuana sales. The mayor stressed that Manitou Springs officials need to establish solid procedures and regulations for licensing and taxation before any official decision is made.

The only other El Paso County town considering the industry is Palmer Lake, which will take the issue to the polls in its April election.

Denver and some other cities to the north, along with Pueblo County to the south, have already decided to allow retail recreational marijuana stores.

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