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Colorado Marijuana Activists Cleared To Collect Signatures To Legalize Sales In State’s Second Largest City

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“Recreational cannabis creates jobs, yields tax dollars and promotes the safety of cannabis products through stringent regulatory oversight.”

By Julia Fennell, Colorado Newsline

Colorado Springs residents could have the chance to vote on the sale of recreational marijuana in the city in this year’s election.

Your Choice Colorado Springs, the group working to get the sale of recreational marijuana on the ballot, filed a petition initiative in January. The City Title Board approved the proposed initiative language that would legalize recreational marijuana sales in Colorado Springs last week. This means that supporters can begin collecting signatures, and if they collect enough signatures, the initiative will appear on this year’s ballot.

“The citizens of Colorado’s second-largest city finally have it within their power to direct taxes from recreational cannabis sales back to their hometown, rather than to cities like Denver and Manitou Springs,” Anthony Carlson, the group’s campaign manager, said in a statement last week.

Your Choice Colorado Springs estimates that there has been $150 million in revenue lost over the past decade because of the ban on selling recreational marijuana inside Colorado Springs, according to the group’s website.

While recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2012, it is against the law for dispensaries in Colorado Springs to sell recreational marijuana. It is legal for licensed medical dispensaries to sell medical marijuana to registered medical marijuana patients in Colorado Springs.

The only municipality in El Paso County that allows the sale of recreational marijuana is Manitou Springs, which has two dispensaries: Maggie’s Farm and Emerald Fields, according to the Manitou Springs website. The two dispensaries are the most profitable recreational marijuana stores in Colorado, because of the lack of competition and an abundance of local demand, according to a January statement from Your Choice Colorado Springs.

“I’d like to ask the elected leaders and voters of Colorado Springs when was the last time they found themselves in an alley purchasing black market moonshine or whiskey out of the trunk of a car? The answer to that question is most likely never,” Rachel Beisel, CEO of Leadout Sales and one of the campaign representatives, said in the group’s statement last week. “Ending Prohibition of recreational cannabis in Colorado Springs will have the same impact on the illicit market for cannabis in our city as ending the federal prohibition of alcohol in the 20th century—which effectively destroyed the illicit markets for liquor.”

As a small business owner, Karlie Van Arnam, a former city council candidate, said she has long been frustrated by elected officials’ refusal to permit the sale of recreational marijuana.

Van Arnam is the general manager of Pure Medical, a medical marijuana company, according to an article last year by The Gazette.

“Recreational cannabis creates jobs, yields tax dollars, and promotes the safety of cannabis products through stringent regulatory oversight,” Van Arnam said in the statement.

Not all agree

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers (R) is opposed to recreational marijuana dispensaries in Colorado Springs.

“Despite the many promises made in the initial Amendment 64, marijuana revenues have not successfully funded schools, and, instead, revenues have been largely used by the incredibly high cost of regulation and enforcement, including illegal grows and illegal exportation of marijuana,” according to a statement attributed to Suthers, emailed to Newsline in January. “Further, the lack of a THC limit in Colorado has resulted in recreational marijuana having such a high THC potency that it is having severe adverse health impacts on its users, particularly younger people.”

Amendment 64 legalized the use of recreational marijuana in Colorado.

The initiative

The group needs 19,345 signatures by June 20 in order for the measure to be placed on the ballot this year, according to a spokesperson from the public relations firm representing Your Choice Colorado Springs.

If the initiative were to make it on the ballot and pass, only existing medical marijuana dispensaries that already operate within Colorado Springs will be able to sell recreational marijuana. The initiative aligns with the city’s existing license cap, which means that no new stores will be allowed, according to the group’s statement.

If passed, people who buy recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs will pay the city a 5 percent tax, in addition to any other taxes imposed, according to the ballot language. The revenue would go to public safety programs, mental health services and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programs for veterans.

This story was first published by Colorado Newsline.

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