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Colorado Springs Recreational Cannabis Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot

Colorado Springs activists are now poised to legalize recreational marijuana sales. This week, they cleared another hurdle with the announcement of two voter initiatives for adult-use cannabis sales.

Your Choice Colorado Springs first proposed a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs. However, the second proposal would tax adult-use cannabis sales at 5%. The tax revenues from recreational marijuana sales, if passed by voters, would be used to improve public safety, increase mental health services and provide support for veteran PTSD programs.

“Voters in the city stepped up and demanded their voice be heard with respect to ending the prohibition of recreational cannabis sales in Colorado Springs,” Your Choice campaign manager Anthony Carlson said on Monday after announcing the measures had qualified for the ballot. “Especially in these tough economic times, it is critical to ensure every tax dollar that rightfully belongs to Colorado Springs taxpayers stays in our community working to improve our quality of life.”

Amendment 64 was passed in Colorado in 2012. It legalized recreational cannabis sales. Regulations began in Colorado two years later. Although Colorado Springs is home to many medical dispensaries and recreational cannabis, it was banned by Colorado Springs’ local government in 2013.

Your Choice Colorado Springs made public its plans for the referendum measure legalizing recreational cannabis in January. In March, it began to circulate petitions for inclusion on the ballot. The deadline for collecting 19,245 signatures was June 20, when activists had to reach Colorado Springs residents. This group exceeded all requirements, submitting more than 98,000 signatures in the last month.

Transfer Pot Taxes to Other Cities

Your Choice Colorado Springs insists that residents of Colorado Springs who legally purchase adult-use cannabis must move to other areas, which can reap the tax benefits from recreational marijuana sales. If the initiatives succeed in this November’s election, a portion of the tax proceeds will help fund mental health services and support PTSD programs for military veterans. According to The Center Square, Colorado Springs boasts one of the largest veteran populations. 17% of Colorado Springs residents identify as veterans, compared with 7.1% nationally.

“Our region led the state in suicides last year,” Carlson said, noting that 30% of those who took their own lives were veterans. “This initiative will provide significant funding to ensure we finally have the resources to take control of this crisis.”

The legalization initiative would prohibit the opening of additional marijuana retail shops in the city. However, existing medical cannabis sellers would still be allowed to sell recreational cannabis from the same premises as the medical ones. Karlie Van Arnam, a small business owner and lead elector sponsoring the initiatives, said the campaign “is about practicality.”

“It makes zero sense to continue the prohibition of a product that is 100% legal to possess and consume in our city,” said Arnam. “This campaign isn’t just about revenue. It’s about personal freedom and choice for our residents. It’s about supporting our small businesses and the thousands of people they employ. It’s about expanding mental health access for citizens and ensuring our veterans have access to world-class PTSD programs right here in Colorado Springs. It’s about time this decision is taken out of the hands of a few politicians and given to the people.”

Colorado Springs Mayor Opposes Legalization

John Suthers (City of Colorado Springs), who opposed recreational cannabis sales for several years, has issued a statement to warn voters about the possible negative consequences.

“I remain vehemently opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs. There are no regulations in Colorado limiting THC levels which continue to rise and adversely impact young marijuana users,” said Suthers. “In cities with recreational marijuana, it’s not paying for the full cost of the damage it’s doing. Denver offers an example of cautionary behavior. It has fallen from No. 2 to No. 3 in three years. It has dropped from No. 2 to No. 55 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings for best city to live. The pervasive influence of marijuana is a significant factor.”

Carlson said that despite the opposition from city leaders, voters are likely to approve the ballot measure in this November’s general election.

“Colorado Springs residents overwhelmingly voted to approve Amendment 64 in 2012. Our City Council and Mayor have repeatedly defied the will of Colorado Springs voters by keeping recreational cannabis—and its tax revenues—out of Colorado Springs for the past decade, at a loss of $150 million,” Carlson said in an email to Chronic News. “Now our citizens have spoken again, submitting a record 98,000 signatures—more than 2.5 times more than required—to get these measures on the ballot. The will of Colorado Springs citizens is crystal clear: They want to keep tax revenues from recreational cannabis in Colorado Springs to support efforts including mental health and veteran services.”