Recreational marijuana sales in Colorado Springs? Voters to decide in November

Voters in Colorado Springs will face ballot questions on recreational marijuana in the November election.

Ten years after voters legalized recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, a ballot question will ask voters to decide if the 115 existing medical marijuana shops in Colorado Springs can begin selling recreational marijuana. A second ballot question would also impose a 5% tax on these sales.

Despite the statewide legalization of recreational marijuana sales, Colorado Springs has opted out of recreational sales and only permits the sale of medical marijuana. However, recreational marijuana users can purchase marijuana in other parts of Colorado and use it at their Springs residences, giving business to dispensaries in Manitou Springs, Pueblo and Denver.

Your Choice Colorado Springs is behind the petition for these ballot questions on marijuana. The campaign has stressed that the city is missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue since Springs residents are purchasing recreational marijuana elsewhere, according to the YourChoiceCOS website.

A petition submitted in spring 2022 had 98,000 signatures supporting the ballot questions; 19,245 valid signatures from registered voters were required to get the questions on the general election ballot, according to KOAA.

After meeting the required number of signatures, Colorado Springs City Council officially approved the questions for the ballot. City Attorney Wynetta Massey told the Gazette that the council is required by law to adopt ballot measures with sufficient petitions or to refer them to voters, but measures that include tax increases are always referred to voters.

Freshman business marketing major Laura Chavez supports expanding beyond medical marijuana sales in the Springs. “Recreational marijuana sales would make things way more accessible and affordable. Not everyone has access to healthcare or medical insurance,” she said.

According to research conducted in 2018, marijuana usage among college students was on the rise, with around 43% of respondents ages 19 to 22 reporting marijuana use in a survey conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

Hudson Spenhoff, freshman biology major, also supports recreational sales for accessibility. “Marijuana opens the mind and frees the soul,” he said.

However, local government leaders have openly opposed it. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers spoke to KOAA in June. “I’m vehemently opposed to recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs,” Suthers said. “When we legalized recreational marijuana in the state, I remember the promises. … But all the money we’ve taken in barely pays for the regulation of marijuana and it doesn’t pay for the social problems.

“Police need more money to enforce it. Drug treatment centers need more money. It’s not paying for the damage that it’s doing.”

When Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, each county and town decided if they wanted to permit recreational sales in their communities. While Suthers has not offered specifics on why he is “vehemently opposed” to recreational marijuana, the large military presence and the contested location of the Space Force headquarters are likely reasons.

Photo by Trevor Hughes, USA Today.