NOT SO FAST
When Colorado and Governor Hickenlooper officially made the state America’s first with legal, recreational cannabis state, the community rejoiced, viewing the near future with wide eyes and open lungs. The sky was the limit, and the future, well–the future was now. Unfortunately–and something not mentioned nearly enough–cities and counties in the state (like with MMJ) still have the right to ban these “frivolous” sales to 21+ year olds.
And these cities and counties are quickly exercising this right. Most notably, Colorado Springs–the second largest city in the state–nixed recreational sales yesterday, along with 35 other towns and cities. While Colorado’s notable pot capitals of Denver and Boulder were absent from this list, it’s certainly a tad disconcerting, discouraging, and a little bit puzzling.
After two hours of public comments, the Colorado Springs City Council voted 5-4 to bar retail pot stores from opening within the city limits. The debate and vote came after Mayor Steve Bach publicly said he would veto the ordinance if the council approved allowing the recreational outlets.
“I say we should stand with our neighbors on this issue,” Bach testified before the vote, referring to nearby communities in the same county that have banned the pot shops.
Colorado Springs has a population of about 420,000 with a large military and evangelical Christian presence and is one of the most conservative and Republican areas in a state which in recent election cycles has turned leftward.
Brian Burnett, vice chancellor of finance for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, said allowing cannabis stores could affect the school’s ability to seek government research grants and provide college educations to military veterans.
“We are heavily federally funded,” he said.
But resident Rob Wiley urged the council to approve the shops so “black market street dealers no longer will have the exclusive franchise” on marijuana sales.
Elected bodies of 35 Colorado towns or cities have voted to opt out of allowing recreational marijuana stores, according to data from the Colorado Municipal League. The possession and use of small amounts of cannabis by adults is still legal in the communities that have banned non-medical pot shops.
In November, voters statewide will decide whether to impose a 25 percent excise and sales tax on recreational pot sales to fund its regulation and enforcement. [Huffington Post]
When you consider Colorado Springs’ conservative nature, it’s not that shocking of a move (even though it lost by a mere one vote). And while it’s unfortunate that recreational facilities won’t be opening their anytime soon, it’s definitely somewhat of a win for medical marijuana collectives that weren’t planning on entering this market. And means that patients will continue to register for Red Cards throughout the state. Cause while recreational marijuana will eventually become a nation-wide reality, the medical aspect is one that must continue to stay and thrive.
Now, it becomes a game of wait-and-see with these other cities like Denver and Boulder, which have until October 1 to make their decisions. Until then, the illegal black market will very much exist and thrive, even in America’s first legal state.