A December election in one of Colorado's most heavily visited small towns could approve allowing marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations within its borders.
Residents of Estes Park — a town of about 6,000 people that feeds, lodges and entertains many of Rocky Mountain National Park's 3 million visitors each year — will vote on a ballot measure December 10 that would end the local government's ban on commercial marijuana. The town has never allowed medical or recreational marijuana businesses, but that would change if Ordinance 23-19 is approved.
The measure proposes creating four different cannabis business licenses: medical dispensaries, medical cultivations, recreational dispensaries and recreational cultivations; dual-licensed grows or dispensaries working with both would also be permitted. There would be just three licenses issued in each category, and the ordinance wouldn't allow the businesses to be located in Estes Park's downtown business district around Elkhorn Avenue, or within 1,000 feet of any primary education schools.
Letters to the editor of Estes Park's local newspaper, the Estes Park Trail Gazette, show a handful of retired residents strongly opposed marijuana businesses in 2017. A faction to defeat the initiative, Estes Park Citizens Opposed to Legal Marijuana Outlets, has spent $2,400 on campaigning, while two separate groups have spent a little under $4,000 in support of the measure. (Neither the Estes Park Citizens Opposed to Legal Marijuana Outlets nor the EP4MJ Committee, the largest financial donor in support of the measure, replied to requests for comment.)
A stroll along Estes Park's business district shows that many local businesses aren't shy about promoting Colorado's reputation for a real Rocky Mountain high; stores stock candy, cookies and T-shirts that are green or decorated with leaf shapes, along with plenty of goods that reference the state's skunky reputation. None of the food products are infused with cannabis, though.
Even if Estes Park legalizes commercial pot, possessing or consuming cannabis at Rocky Mountain National Park will still be illegal, as the park is on federal land.
While an increasing number of towns in the Denver metropolitan area have voted to allow commercial marijuana within their borders since 2012, when recreational pot was legalized, smaller and more secluded towns haven't accepted retail weed at the same rate. Voters in Loveland, for example, rejected marijuana dispensaries in November, keeping the town among the majority of Colorado localities that still ban pot businesses.
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