Colorado Springs’ campaign to allow pot sales is a test for marijuana’s popularity

Colorado Springs, home to five military outposts and the religious right, is poised to serve as a national barometer for where conservatives stand on recreational marijuana sales.

Driving the news: A citizen-led organization this week tabled language for a November ballot measure that will ask residents to legalize retail cannabis sales and impose a 5% sales tax with revenue earmarked for public safety. , mental health and veterans programs.

Why is this important: Colorado Springs – the second largest city in the state – is the biggest obstacle to marijuana sales in the state, known as the pioneer of pot.

  • Given the community’s reputation, national and state cannabis advocates tell Axios the measure is a broader test for marijuana. “I’m definitely going to watch it,” said Michael Correia of the National Cannabis Industry Association, which is pushing for federal legalization.
  • “What this will demonstrate is that this is truly a solved problem across the country, that people are comfortable with the presence of recreational marijuana in their communities,” said Anthony Carlson, measurement campaign manager.

Between the lines: The effort comes 10 years after Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 to legalize marijuana and allow retail sales, which began two years later in 2014.

  • Colorado Springs voters approved the measure by about 3,000 votes, but the wording left up to local elected officials to decide whether to allow retail sales. The city council decided not to put the question on the ballot in 2020.
  • So even though it is legal to use marijuana in Colorado Springs, residents have to go elsewhere to buy it.

Enlarge: From the start, the marijuana sales campaign — dubbed Your Choice Colorado Springs — crafts its pitch with conservatives in mind.

  • The argument is fiscal: The city would reap millions of dollars in tax revenue that currently goes to other places, such as nearby Manitou Springs, the only municipality in the county that allows retail.
  • The wording of the ballot would not authorize more stores, but would allow existing medical marijuana retailers to also sell recreational cannabis to adults 21 and older.
  • The destination of the estimated $10-15 million in tax revenue is also designed to garner broad support, organizers acknowledge.

And after: To put the measure on the 2022 ballot, the campaign will need the signatures of around 30,000 voters in the city. Then he must win in November.

  • The campaign recognizes that this is a difficult task, particularly because Mayor John Suthers is an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization.
  • “I don’t think the government should promote things that are against the public interest just because they can generate revenue,” Suthers told the Colorado Springs Independent last year. “I’ve always had a fundamental position here that the government promoting drug use in order to get high is not good public policy.”

The big picture: Colorado brought in $423.5 million in state tax revenue in 2021 from marijuana sales, another record year, according to figures released this month.

  • Recreational sales are permitted in more than 90 municipalities across the state.
  • In 2020, Denver brought in $35 million in pot taxes.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter and faster on the biggest news happening in their own backyards. Subscribe here.

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