COLORADO SPRINGS — On Friday morning, a local citizens group that is pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado Springs, delivered nearly 100,000 signatures to the City Clerk's Office. Their hope is that it makes it on ballots for November's election. Meanwhile city leaders, are against it.
“It’s been our city council and the mayor who has been standing in the way of having recreational sales,” said Anthony Carlson, the campaign manager for Your Choice Colorado Springs.
Carlson said over the past three months, he and others in the group have gone out into the community to collect thousands of signatures from registered voters in Colorado Springs. He mentioned it was an exciting process and people in the community were eager to sign the petition.
“We’ve collected over 1,000 signatures a day over the last 90 days or so. The community has demonstrated they're very eager to finally have their opportunity to have their voice heard on this matter,” said Carlson.
The thousands of signatures support two ballot initiatives. One would legalize recreational marijuana sales in Colorado Springs. The other would impose a 5% sales tax. Carlson says, the city is losing out on $15 million a year to neighboring communities.
“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 says these are similar to promises he's heard 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 the black of market of sales is still prevalent, and no better than it was 10 years ago. He also said the THC levels is dangerous for kids and young adults, and is having a negative impact on them as well.
“This is not your grandmother, grandfather's marijuana. It has psychotic inducing reactions for young people,” said Mayor Suthers.
Mayor Suthers says, while he doesn't believe marijuana will become illegal again in Colorado, “We’re creating an environment where young people don't think there's any problem with it, and some of them are moving on to serious drugs.”
Mayor Suthers also voiced his concern that if recreational marijuana sales passes 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.
The City Clerk's office has 30 days beginning tomorrow, to count and review the signatures and ensure the petition is valid. For now, there's no guarantee these initiatives will be on November's ballot.
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