Palmer Lake voters have spoken, for a fourth time: No recreational marijuana shops within town limits.
But Dino Salvatori, a dispensary owner who spearheaded the 2018 measure to bring pot shops to the small foothills town, said he has not given up.
“I probably will be back,” said Salvatori. “I have nothing to lose. The town has everything to gain.”
As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, 607 votes, or about 55 percent, had been counted against the measure. Nearly 490 votes, or 45 percent, were in favor.
There are some votes left to be counted, although the Clerk and Recorder’s Office doesn’t know exactly how many. Salvatori said the final tallies are unlikely to change the outcome.
Residents voted against the proposal in April 2014 and again in November 2014, when they also approved a three-year moratorium on recreational pot sales.
The town of about 2,500 voted down recreational pot sales a third time in 2016 by 916 to 714, Palmer Lake Administrator Cathy Green has said.
Salvatori owns the town’s sole medical marijuana dispensary, Palmer Lake Wellness Center, which worked with wholesale marijuana grower Alpine Essentials to collect the more than 100 signatures needed to get the question on the ballot again this year.
The group that formed in support of the measure, Community for a Peaceful Palmer Lake, campaigned on the promise that recreational marijuana sellers would bring much-needed tax revenue to fund upgrades in the town’s police and fire departments, schools, and infrastructure.
Another measure on the ballot would have allowed the town to collect a 5 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales, in addition to the town’s 3 percent general sales tax.
Most voters said “yes” to the recreational pot sales tax measure. As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, 681 votes, or about 63 percent, had been counted in favor of the measure, and 404 votes, or about 37 percent, had been counted against it.
But Town Clerk Verla Bruner said the tax is now a moot point.
Bruner said she was seeking clarification from the town attorney on whether the sales tax would apply if voters legalize recreational marijuana shops in a future election.
An opposition group, Citizens for a Peaceful and Safe Palmer Lake, encouraged votes to reject the measure allowing pot shops, citing the potentially harmful effects on the community, said Mike Bromfield, a town resident and member of the organization.
Bromfield named a few potential side effects — increases in crime and traffic, more underage use among school children.
Legal marijuana critics have often made many of the same arguments. Researchers have come to varying conclusions about whether and how legal marijuana is tied to issues such as crime and homelessness.
“We didn’t want to take that chance,” said Bromfield, a retired accountant who’s lived in Palmer Lake for eight years. “The possibility of changing our town is not worth the money we might get.”
El Paso County has two recreational marijuana shops, both in Manitou Springs, the only city in the county that has voted to allow the retailers. About 70 of the state’s municipalities — including Denver, Fort Collins and Pueblo — allow recreational sales, according to the Colorado Municipal League.
Salvatori chalked up the town’s fourth rejection of recreational pot shops to misinformation — about both the effects of pot stores on communities and the state of the town’s budget. ”The 550 people that voted no against this that don’t realize what kind of shape that their town is in,” Salvatori said. “The people in Palmer Lake want this perfect little town, but they don’t have enough money to improve it.”
He added that, in the two years since the last election, the public perception of legal recreational marijuana has changed for the better — “just not enough” in the town, he said.
Nationwide, Tuesday’s election was largely a good day for marijuana proponents. Michigan became the 10th state in the nation to approve recreational use. While North Dakota voter struck down a recreational legalization measure, Utah and Missouri passed medical marijuana laws.
Several other Colorado municipalities decided on marijuana-related measures on Tuesday, according to the Colorado Municipal League. Bayfield and Saguache voters declined to allow medical and retail establishments. Residents in Hudson also voted down retail pot shops, but Las Animas voters approved medical and retail sales, according to a news release from the League.
The Washington Post contributed to this report.