The Colorado Springs, Colorado Title Board has made a monumental move. Colorado Springs recreational cannabis sales may soon be allowed in the city, due to a newly approved petition for a proposal, according to the group spearheading the drive. With the approval, Your Choice Colorado Springs announced on Friday that activists would begin circulating petitions in an effort to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
Colorado voters legalized sales of recreational cannabis statewide with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, and regulated sales began in the state two years later. Colorado Springs is the home to more than 100 medical marijuana dispensaries, but the city banned sales of recreational cannabis in 2013.
Your Choice Colorado Springs says that the decision to prohibit sales of recreational marijuana in the city forces consumers to drive to nearby communities to visit regulated adult-use cannabis dispensaries. As a result, the city is missing out on the revenue generated by taxes levied on those purchases. The group says that the proposed ballot measure will give the city’s voters the chance to weigh in on the issue.
“The citizens of Colorado’s second-largest city finally have it within their power to direct taxes from recreational cannabis sales back to their hometown, rather than to cities like Denver and Manitou Springs,” said Your Choice campaign manager Anthony Carlson in a press release.
To comply with the city’s cap on cannabis retailers, the ballot measure would only allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries to apply for state licenses to sell recreational marijuana. The proposal would not allow new cannabis dispensaries to open in Colorado Springs. The measure would also levy a five percent tax on sales of recreational cannabis.
Local Leaders Opposed to Colorado Springs Recreational Cannabis Stores
The campaign estimates that Colorado Springs has missed out on approximately $150 million in tax revenue by forgoing sales of adult-use cannabis. The city’s voters approved 2012’s Amendment 64 by a margin of about two percentage points, but city leaders have not heeded calls to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries.
A 2020 proposal to allow sales of adult-use cannabis in Colorado Springs failed to gain the city council’s approval. And after Your Choice Colorado Springs announced the new effort in January, Mayor John Suthers reiterated his opposition to recreational sales at the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
“The refusal among Colorado Springs’ elected officials to follow the voters’ will and permit recreational sales of cannabis is illogical and counterproductive,” said campaign organizer Schuyler Foerster. “Legal cannabis sales already occur in Colorado Springs, through the medical channel. Residents can also readily buy recreational marijuana outside Colorado Springs, but other municipalities enjoy the more significant tax revenues.”
Sales tax revenue generated by recreational cannabis sales in Colorado Springs would help fund public safety improvements, an expansion of mental health services and support for military veterans, according to Your Choice Colorado Springs. Recreational cannabis revenue would be subject to an annual audit by a citizen committee “to ensure that money is being spent where voters approved,” according to the group’s website.
“This ballot measure allows highly regulated recreational marijuana businesses to serve local residents and send tax revenues directly to the city budget,” Foerster added. “Among other things, revenues will serve the city’s more than 80,000 veterans, some of whom struggle with mental health issues, including PTSD.”
Another leader of the campaign, Rachel Beisel, said the proposal would help Colorado’s regulated cannabis industry compete with unlicensed operators.
“Ending Prohibition of recreational cannabis in Colorado Springs will have the same impact on the illicit market for cannabis in our city as ending the federal prohibition of alcohol in the 20th century – which effectively destroyed the illicit markets for liquor.”
With the Title Board’s approval of the petition, Your Choice Colorado Springs will now begin collecting signatures. The group has until June 20 to collect the more than 19,000 signatures of registered Colorado Springs voters needed to qualify the measure for the November general election ballot.