Despite the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper, cities across Colorado are opting out of the state’s historic decision to legalize cannabis.
Today, Colorado Springs, the second largest city in the state will likely vote to ban cannabis stores. Four out of nine Colorado Springs City Council members have said they will vote down retail cannabis stores. Even if the other five council members vote yes, Mayor Steve Bach has promised to veto cannabis shops within city limits.
“This is so important to our community and in our best interest that I will respectfully need to veto anything short of opting out,” Bach told the Greeley Gazette.
Earlier in July the town of Greeley, seat of Weld county and the third largest agriculture county in the U.S., voted to ban cannabis sales.
“The council didn’t believe having actual retail sales and cultivation is in the best interest of public policy,” said Roy Otto, Greeley city manager. “The biggest element of the conflict is if the federal government is going to do anything relative to enforcing their authority on this.”
In Denver, where citizens voted in large numbers in favor of I-64 last November, Mayor Michael Hancock has advocated a two year moratorium on cannabis shops, clubs, sales and public consumption.
“As a parent, I worry about how the increased presence of marijuana in our city will affect our children and our grandchildren. Despite a few lessons learned from medical marijuana, the long-term implications of that industry and the potential for an expanded industry will not be known to us for perhaps a generation or more. There is no denying, however, the potential for a negative impact on our kids — on their home lives, their health, their education and their future. We already know the toll substance abuse takes on so many of our residents. Sadly, many of them are parents. The cost of substance abuse on our health care system, our jails and in our courts is substantial. I want more for all of our kids and for all Denverites. Finally, as everyone who has touched this subject of late will attest, there are no easy answers to what we are facing. Amendment 64 calls for quick implementation, but we cannot sacrifice prudence for expediency. Denver’s future depends upon us and the actions we take now,” Hancock said.
Others apart from the debate in the state disagree with Colorado politicians’ anti-cannabis stand.
“I think a number of localities are deciding prematurely to prohibit these businesses,” Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project and key player in the marijuana legalization effort in Colorado, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “If enough localities are banning these businesses, it increases the possibility that a black market for marijuana will continue to exist.”
“If municipalities and counties either delay, or are slow in implementing retail marijuana, or opt out of it completely, that revenue stream is going to impact the state’s ability to hire and build its regulatory and enforcement structure,” said Kevin Bommer, deputy director at the Denver-based Colorado Municipal League.
In Aurora, the third largest city in Colorado, the city council has already voted in favor of a two year moratorium.
“The state went ahead full steam with medical marijuana and now they’re discovering there were issues they didn’t address,” said Debi Hunter Holen, an at-large City Council member.
“It’s not that we don’t want retail marijuana in our city,” she said. “It’s that we want to make sure our rules are in place and we can get a better picture of what the state wants.”
Other cities see an opportunity for themselves if more moratoriums get passed elsewhere around the state.
“From our perspective, the more of our neighbors who opt out, the more tax revenue for us,” said Sal Pace, a commissioner in Pueblo County, “If Colorado Springs and El Paso County opt out, we think there’s a really significant business opportunity.”
Five medical-marijuana shops in Pueblo County generate up to $10,000 a month in sales taxes, a number that commissioners estimate may reach $75,000 a month with the addition of recreational pot retailers, Pace said.
Medical cannabis will not be affected by the proposed moratoriums and they can still apply to sell cannabis recreationally.