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Sep 27, 2013 12:24 AM by Tony Spehar - tspehar@koaa.com

Debate over retail marijuana sales in Colorado Springs goes on despite council vote

The debate of retail sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs isn't over yet, despite the city council voting to opt out of allowing sales.

It's been over two-months since the Colorado Springs City Council voted 5 to 4 to ban retail sales within the city upsetting marijuana supporters. As part of Amendment 64, the law legalizing marijuana in the state, local governments have the right to opt-out of allowing retail sales. But the group Every Vote Counts is pushing back, the group was formed immediately after the passage of Amendment 64.

"We were pushing the city council to move into opting into regulation instead of prohibition," said Mark Slaugh, one of the group's directors. "Instead they ignored the will of voters and chose to prohibit cannabis commerce in Colorado Springs."

Their argument is that since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado Springs by just about 5,000 votes the council should have followed the will of voters. Now, the group is in the beginning stages of a campaign to petition to get the issue of whether or not to allow retail pot sales onto the 2014 ballot to let voters decide.

"The council isn't listening to us, the vote wasn't enough, so we have to be able to gather our allies, our support and be able to collect enough signatures," Slaugh explained. "In the region of about 40,000, that's twice as many as what we need."

At-large Councilmember Val Snider, the swing vote in the decision by the city council to opt-out of retail sales, stood by his reasons for voting against allowing sales when asked for comment.

"I recall when I took an oath of office that I swore to uphold all federal, state and local laws," Snider explained. "Another one, I don't think that we've anticipated a lot of the unintended consequences."

Snider fears the potentially negative economic and social impact of allowing pot shops to sell recreational marijuana and said he's not sure about arguments that sales could bring millions in tax revenue.

"Yeah, the circumstances could change, I'm just a little leery in changing our local law when things are so new," he said. "We have just not a lot of information."

Every Vote Counts has not yet filed the paperwork to being the petition of process and thus hasn't begun gathering signatures. Over the coming months they plan to expand the campaign and begin fundraising.

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