Lakewood Could Vote on Recreational Marijuana Sales in November

Levels, a medical marijuana dispensary in Lakewood.
Levels, a medical marijuana dispensary in Lakewood.
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Proponents of a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana sales in Lakewood have announced enough signatures to appear on the November election ballot.

One of Denver's largest suburban communities at nearly 158,000 people, Lakewood currently only allows medical marijuana sales. A 2014 vote by Lakewood City Council initially prohibited recreational marijuana stores, with residents upholding the ban in a local election later that year. But proponents of Vote Yes for a Stronger Lakewood, a campaign to permit recreational pot sales in Lakewood, believe that six years has been long enough to revisit the issue.

Campaign organizers submitted 6,671 official signatures (over 1,000 more than required) for a recreational marijuana sales question to appear on the next election ballot, according to Lakewood City Clerk Michele Millard, who approved the signatures in her initial determination August 13. The Lakewood City Council will issue a final determination on the signatures on August 24.

Lakewood voters won't have much to read if the question makes the November ballot as expected. “Shall the City of Lakewood adopt an ordinance adopting regulations governing the operation of retail marijuana stores and retail marijuana cultivation facilities in the City of Lakewood and making corresponding amendments to certain sections of Lakewood Municipal Code, Chapter 5.51 concerning medical marijuana businesses?” the proposed ballot question reads.

There are currently nine medical marijuana dispensaries in Lakewood. If passed, local marijuana business rules would be crafted by the City of Lakewood.

The Lakewood campaign is funded in part by Ascend Cannabis Co., one of the financial backers behind a similar campaign to legalize recreational marijuana businesses in Littleton, which will vote on the issue in November. A Colorado dispensary chain with stores in Denver, Littleton, Lakewood and Buena Vista, Ascend hired the same public-affairs firm leading the Littleton effort for the Lakewood initiative.

“Currently, Lakewood residents who are purchasing adult-use cannabis are doing so in Denver, Edgewater or other surrounding communities. We estimate Lakewood loses millions of tax dollars each year to those communities annually,” Ascend owner Scott Embree says in a statement.

According to a poll paid for by Vote Yes for a Stronger Lakewood, 73 percent of Lakewood voters support recreational marijuana sales, with all five districts reporting at least a 68 percent approval rate. Embree believes the financial recession brought by COVID-19 could spur Lakewood voters toward new forms of tax revenue currently lost to nearby communities allowing recreational sales, like Denver and Edgewater.

"As Lakewood works to bounce back from COVID-19, we need to keep those millions in Lakewood and use it to improve our streets and grow parks and open space," he adds. "In the time of declining sales tax revenue to the city, we hope Lakewood residents will support this ballot initiative and keep Lakewood’s tax dollars in Lakewood."

Lakewood joins Broomfield and Littleton as metro area towns heading toward a vote over retail marijuana in November.

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