Election

Colorado Springs Title Board Accepts Recreational Marijuana Sales Petition

Native Roots Gas & Grass, a medical marijuana dispensary and gas station in Colorado Springs.
Native Roots Gas & Grass, a medical marijuana dispensary and gas station in Colorado Springs. Google Maps screenshot
Organizers of a ballot initiative to allow recreational marijuana sales in Colorado Springs say they've moved to the signature-gathering phase now that the City Title Board has accepted their petition.

Your Choice Colorado Springs has ninety days to collect around 33,000 signatures. The effort, announced in January, hit a snag last month after the city clerk's office warned that the original petition could trigger a special election because it was submitted two weeks too early for the November ballot. The petition was re-submitted in February; if the signature drive is successful, the measure will appear on the November 8 election ballot.

Colorado Springs allows around 120 medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within city limits, but the Colorado Springs City Council banned recreational pot sales in 2013, the year after Coloradans legalized recreational marijuana and the year before retail dispensaries opened. Multiple attempts to get the council to approve recreational sales in the city have failed since then, so Your Choice Colorado Springs is now going the election route.

“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,” says Your Choice campaign manager Anthony Carlson.

The initiative would allow only current medical dispensaries to apply for recreational sales permits, in order to comply with the city's licensing cap; there would be no new stores. Recreational marijuana purchases would carry a 5 percent special sales tax that would fund mental-health and public-safety programs, according to organizers.

Over half of the sales tax revenue in Manitou Springs in 2019 came from recreational pot sales, according to former mayor Ken Jaray, with the majority of that believed to have come from Colorado Springs residents and other out-of-towners. A 2020 report by previous recreational sales proponents in Colorado Springs estimated that a 5 percent tax on recreational pot sales would bring in more than $40 million in tax revenue in five years.

Colorado Springs voters approved recreational marijuana legalization by just over 2 percent in 2012, before council imposed its ban, while informal polling done by local news outlet KOAA in 2021 showed that a majority support recreational dispensaries in Colorado Springs.

Mayor John Suthers, a former Colorado attorney general, has consistently opposed recreational marijuana sales during his tenure. In a January statement after Your Choice Colorado Springs announced its petition, Suthers reiterated his opposition, adding that marijuana legalization has been negative overall for Colorado "despite the many promises" made by supporters. 
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell