COLORADO SPRINGS — It's been a decade since Colorado voters approved the sale of recreational marijuana in the state. With the passing of Amendment 64 in 2012, it gave local governments the decision on whether or not to allow recreational sales.
In El Paso County, Manitou Springs is currently the only city selling recreational cannabis. That could change with a couple of questions on the ballot this November for Colorado Springs voters, the county's largest city.
Questions 300 and 301 are asking Colorado Springs voters to approve recreational sales of cannabis and add a tax. The campaign behind the initiative says the money generated from the tax would go toward public safety, mental health programs, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment options for veterans.
The campaign argues in the past eight years recreational sales have been happening in the state, and people in Colorado Springs have been traveling to places like Manitou, Pueblo, and Denver.
"It's a product that's already being purchased here, it's just capturing those dollars and bringing them back home," Anthony Carlson, campaign manager said. The campaign estimates Colorado Springs would gain $15 million in tax revenue if voters approve the questions.
Where the money could be going is something Jonathan Cho, General Manager of "High Hopes" in Colorado Springs is looking forward to.
"That special tax is really going to benefit the Springs overall," Cho said.
With sales of marijuana going down statewide in Colorado, Cho said the past couple of years has been a range of emotions.
"It's been, you know, definitely peaks and valleys. As far as the business we've seen quite a bit of impact, with some changes as far as the industry itself. But recreational is something that the entire industry has been looking forward to for quite some time," Cho said.
The decline in sales on both the medical and recreational side of the business has been credited to changes in state law that limit how much cannabis concentrate medical patients can receive. On the recreational side, many point to the legalization of the drug in places like New Mexico pulling customers from other nearby states.
With it being a decade since the passing of recreational marijuana statewide, Carlson believes the time has shown the benefits of the revenue created by sales.
"What we've seen is when you regulate, you responsibly sell recreational cannabis it's in that benefit for communities across the state," Carlson said.
The measure comes as President Biden announced pardons for "simple possession" of marijuana earlier this month.
Opponents of the measures argue there are more negatives to selling recreational cannabis than positives.
"If we embrace recreational marijuana, it will have a negative impact on the quality of life in our community," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said.
Suthers, a former Colorado Attorney General, has been a vocal opponent of recreational cannabis. He points to an increase in drug use, crime, the homeless population, and the impact of the defense industry in the state as some of his reasons.
"The fact of the matter is, the military views the availability of drugs, the readily ready access to drugs as contrary to their mission readiness," Suthers said.
Suthers points to studies from Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area on the impact marijuana is having on use.
"I talked to a lot of mayors and a lot of them don't talk about it publicly, but most admit that having widespread marijuana dispensaries in their city is an attraction to homelessness," Suthers said.
Just this month, the Colorado Springs City Council passed a resolution opposing the sale of recreational marijuana
Here's what is on the ballot:
City of Colorado Springs Ballot Question 300 (Vote Yes/For or No/Against)
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 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?
City of Colorado Springs Ballot Issue 301 (Vote Yes/For or No/Against)
SHALL CITY TAXES BE INCREASED $5,600,000 ANNUALLY BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2023, AND BY WHATEVER AMOUNTS ARE RAISED IN YEARS THEREAFTER, BY INCREASING THE RATE OF SALES TAX ON THE SALES OF RETAIL/RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA WITHIN THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS BY A RATE OF 5%, SOLELY FOR THE PURPOSE OF FUNDING PUBLIC SAFETY PROGRAMS, MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, AND POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER TREATMENT PROGRAMS FOR VETERANS; AND SHALL THE CITY BE PERMITTED TO COLLECT, RETAIN AND SPEND ALL REVENUES DERIVED THEREFROM AS A VOTER-APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE AND EXCEPTION TO ANY CONSTITUTIONAL, STATUTORY AND CITY CHARTER REVENUE AND SPENDING LIMITATIONS WHICH MAY OTHERWISE APPLY?
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.