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Decision on recreational marijuana sales will be on the November ballot in Colorado Springs

Posted at 11:11 AM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 21:54:14-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — This November, Colorado Springs voters will have the choice to voice their opinion on whether the city should legalize sales of recreational marijuana. Since Colorado legalized recreational sales in 2012, Colorado Springs is among the cities that chose to only allow medical marijuana sales. Currently, anyone seeking to purchase recreational marijuana must take the short drive to Manitou Springs, or along I-25 to Denver or Pueblo to find a shop.

The Your Choice Colorado campaign collected 98,000 signatures in Spring 2022 to submit to the city clerk for verification in order to make it on the general election ballot. They were required to collect at least 19,245 valid signatures from registered voters in Colorado Springs.

With the approval, there will be two issues on the ballot. Click on the links to see the official language.

  • Authorization of recreational marijuana
    • Shall the ordinances of the City of Colorado Springs be amended to:
      • Authorize the regulation of retail/recreational marijuana establishments in the same manner as medical marijuana
      • Repeal the prohibition against retail/recreational marijuana establishments; and
      • Authorize medical marijuana establishments to also be licensed as retail/recreational marijuana establishments without raising the cap on the number of locations set forth in City Code §2.2.104.
  • An ordinance pertaining to a special retail/recreation marijuana sales tax (5%) (in part)
    • (a) In addition to paying any other tax imposed on the sale of Retail/Recreation Marijuana and notwithstanding any provision of the Colorado Springs City Code (“City Code”) that may be interpreted to prohibit a special Retail/Recreation Marijuana Sales Tax including section 2.2.101 .B of the City Code, every purchaser of Retail/Recreation Marijuana from a Retail/Recreation Marijuana Store shall pay a City tax of five percent (5%) of the amount of the sale (referred to in this ordinance as the “Retail/Recreation Marijuana Sales Tax”).

If passed by the voters, sales and the sales tax go into effect in early 2023.

The sales tax portion of the ballot question includes having the revenue "subject to an independent citizen audit by a three-person panel, appointed by the mayor, of persons familiar with generally accepted accounting practices and municipal government. Such audit shall be made readily available to the public."

The cap on establishments in the ballot language refers to City Code §2.2.104 which states, "A maximum number of approximately two hundred twelve (212) distinct locations in the City where one or any combination of the following may be licensed in the same premises location: medical marijuana center, medical marijuana optional premises cultivation facility, and medical marijuana infused product manufacturer facility; such exact number as determined by the local licensing authority by calculating the total number of locations in the City where a licensed premises existed for a medical marijuana center, medical marijuana optional premises cultivation facility, and medical marijuana infused product manufacturer facility or any combination of these as of May 25, 2017. The local licensing authority's calculation of the cap shall be considered dispositive and shall not be subject to appeal."

According to Anthony Carlson, the campaign manager for Your Choice Colorado Springs, the city is losing out on $15 million a year to neighboring communities that allow sales.

“Our community just simply doesn't get the benefit of the tax dollars that comes with those sales,” said Carlson. “I think for a city like Colorado Springs that is growing so quickly, we need to be very thoughtful with how we generate revenues and continue to support the growth and the challenges that come with growth.”

The group wants revenue collected from sales to go toward improving public safety, expanding mental health services, and providing more programs for veterans with PTSD.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told News5 in late June that he's heard these promises before.

“I’m vehemently opposed to recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs,” said Mayor Suthers. “When we legalized recreational marijuana in the state, I remember the promises. Number one: there'll be all kinds of money for schools, roads, all that kind of stuff. But all the money we've taken in barely pays for the regulation of marijuana and it doesn't pay for the social problems. Police need more money to enforce it. Drug treatment centers need more money. It’s not paying for the damage that it's doing.”

Mayor Suthers and City Council have strongly opposed the sale of recreational marijuana since it was legalized in Colorado in 2012. He says black market sales are still prevalent, and no better than it was 10 years ago. He also said the THC levels are dangerous for kids and young adults and are having a negative impact.

“This is not your grandmother, grandfather's marijuana. It has psychotic-inducing reactions for young people,” said Mayor Suthers.

Suthers also voiced his concern that if recreational marijuana sales pass in Colorado Springs, it would be a part of the conversation about moving the U.S. Space Command to Hunstville, Alabama.

Meanwhile, those like Carlson say the fight has been going on for a decade now, and they are hoping the initiatives make it to November’s ballot.

“Folks are going to be very excited to finally end their senseless prohibition on recreational marijuana, and make sure that the tax dollars that belong to Colorado Springs are staying here helping solve the challenges of our growing city and not our neighbors,” said Carlson.

Learn more about marijuana. regulations and licensing:

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