Littleton residents are likely to be voting in November on whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in the city, now that proponents have submitted signatures on their proposal to lift the ban.
Recreational marijuana sales have been prohibited in Littleton since Colorado's first stores opened, although medical marijuana dispensaries have been in business there since 2010, and three are currently operating. In fact, two of those medical dispensaries, Silver Stem Fine Cannabis and Ascend Cannabis Co., are spearheading the campaign to allow Littleton's medical dispensaries to begin selling recreational marijuana in 2021.
Residents for a Stronger Littleton, which is pushing the initiative, reports collecting far more than the 4,419 valid signatures required to make a local election ballot. At its August 18 meeting, Littleton City Council can either approve the measure as an ordinance or move it to the November election and put the question to the voters; members of Residents for a Stronger Littleton predict that council will go the ballot route.
Since 2012, there have been several attempts to lift the recreational sales ban, but none received enough support from councilmembers. This time around, though, Silver Stem co-owner Stan Zislis is optimistic.
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"Our Littleton store is the oldest legacy in our network. We've been working with the city since 2012, since Amendment 64 passed, to get them to allow recreational sales," Zislis says. "What makes me confident this time is the poll survey that we've conducted and the overwhelming support that we've seen."
In November 2012, 51 percent of Littleton voters approved Amendment 64, the state ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana. According to a poll paid for by Residents for a Stronger Littleton, 69 percent of Littleton residents now support recreational marijuana sales. With the presidential contest on the November ballot, Zislis anticipates a large turnout that could boost support for the proposal.
"It's been eleven years since medical marijuana dispensaries opened. Times have changed," he says. "This is now an expected commodity, and the stereotypes are dying off."
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The question on the ballot initiative is simple: "Shall existing medical marijuana center licensees in the City of Littleton be permitted to sell retail marijuana on and after January 1, 2021?" That language was kept short and open-ended intentionally, so that city council can create local regulations, such as sales tax rates and hours of operation, through a rulemaking process, according to Residents for a Stronger Littleton campaign manager Lynea Hansen.
If rec sales are legalized, the group estimates that the town's three dispensaries would generate anywhere from $700,000 to $1.5 million in additional marijuana tax revenue, depending on the tax rate.
Littleton currently has a cap of four dispensaries, and that is likely to remain the case even if recreational marijuana sales are allowed, Zislis says. (The Hemp Center, Littleton's third medical marijuana dispensary, did not respond to a request for comment.)
As the COVID-19 pandemic cuts local and state budgets, several Colorado towns are again considering allowing new marijuana businesses as a way to staunch the bleeding. Broomfield voters will decide whether to approve recreational marijuana in November. A group in Colorado Springs was also pushing for that city to end its ban on recreational sales — but its proposal was recently killed by the Colorado Springs City Council.