May 7, 2014 8:37 PM by Kelsey Kennedy
Manitou Springs is one step closer to recreational marijuana sales. City council approved a plan that would let Maggie's Farm's owner open a pot shop on Manitou Avenue near Highway 24.
News 5 found mixed reaction from local business owners and neighbors. For some, the recreational marijuana industry is just the boost the economy needs.
"We've got all the shops; the art galleries are gorgeous here in Manitou Springs, and the food is some of the best of Colorado," says resident Michelle Dane. "So that's going to give them the chance to experience that and they'll want to come back and do that again. Not just for the pot, but for the other things we have to value here."
Tim Haas, owner of Garden of the Gods Trading Post and other businesses, is disappointed by the decision. He's afraid it will be detrimental to tourism in Manitou Springs.
"I suspect that there will be tax revenues, but they'll be offset by losses from other industries," he says. "I think Manitou is playing with fire in deciding to be the only community in El Paso County to be a recreational distribution point."
He says businesses in Manitou have made great strides to promote themselves as family friendly. Mountain Living Studios owner, Bianca Trenker's biggest fear is that perception will change.
"If it's done right, hopefully families will still feel comfortable enjoying Manitou," she says.
Tracy Shogren, the co-owner of The Hemp Store, says tourists who don't break the law at home are looking for recreational marijuana here.
"There's a disconnect between what type of tourist is seeking recreational cannabis," she says. "From what we've seen, it's middle aged people who come here because Colorado says it was legal."
She says she sends five to ten groups a day to either Pueblo West or Denver to buy cannabis. She thinks putting the dispensary at the other end of town is sending the wrong message.
"You are acting like there is something nefarious about that product, and something bad about those customers. You're saying to those customers, please don't come to the downtown area. Don't buy T-shirts. Don't buy lunch. Don't walk around. Buy your cannabis and get out."
The debate is far from over. News 5 has learned supporters of a recreational marijuana ban have enough signatures to get a measure onto the ballot. The issue is expected be decided by voters in November.