Potholes- What Legalization Means for Manitou

If+you%27ve+been+living+under+a+rock%2C+recreational+marijuana+was+passed+legally+this+January+in+Colorado.+

If you've been living under a rock, recreational marijuana was passed legally this January in Colorado.

Brandon McCann

With the New Year’s legalization of retail marijuana sales in several of Colorado’s cities, Manitou Springs has recently become the sole municipality to legalize sale of recreational marijuana in El Paso County.

The law, which was officially approved January 21st with a 6-1 council vote, is the result of the council’s support of the 68% affirmative public vote on Amendment 64 in November.

Two ‘pot shops’ will be allowed within city limits, who must apply for a permit to distribute, the details of which have not yet been released. The shops must be at least 500 feet from schools, or alcohol or drug rehabilitation facilities, and cannot be located on city-owned property or in residential buildings. They also cannot be located in the downtown district.

They can operate 7 days a week, but will be restricted to business hours between 8AM and 7PM; additionally, only those 21 or older will be allowed within the stores.

As throughout Colorado, residents will be permitted to buy up to a single ounce of marijuana, though tourists and the like will be restricted to quarter ounce in a single purchase.

Despite the ruling, some residents, such as local business owner Tim Haas, still disagree with city council and want to push the issue onto next year’s ballot. In an interview with The Gazette, Haas stated, “We’re going to continue to fight this. This is not over.”

One of the main community representatives against the legalization, Haas believes that the ruling will only serve to hinder the flow of tourist families which keep our economy kicking through the year, saying that advocates only see the dollar signs coming from elsewhere.

Deb Robinson, the owner of La Henna Boheme in Manitou and one of several speakers present at city council’s public hearings on the topic, thinks otherwise.

“The gross misconception, I feel is the generalization on who is actually using marijuana… we had a minimum of 100 tourists last summer ask us where they could buy marijuana. The tourists who came in were middle class, all ages and some with families. Not everyone who walks into a bar is an alcoholic just as not everyone who uses marijuana is a pothead or even a daily user,” said Robinson.

City officials have thus far stayed relatively reserved on the topic. As reported by The Gazette, Police Chief Joe Ribeiro is much more concerned with making preparations for an inevitable wave of confusion about where the drug can legally be used, and the effect it has on drivers.

Ribeiro says his department wants to make it clear that it is just as dangerous to be driving high as it is to be driving drunk, and fears that there is a stigmatic lack of caution when it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana.

Our own students have come to their conclusions about the legalization. An anonymous junior believes it will cause drug dealers and black market sales to fade, though not completely. He is among many to believe the town will see a huge boost to its economy for a short time before leveling out, but sees great value in the extra tax money that the town can salvage. As to whether or not it will negatively impact Manitou as a whole, he said, “Oh yeah. Parents won’t want their kids being in the pot town. But a lot of people like college kids, old people, and rambunctious people who don’t care who sees them smokin’ a fat one will come running.”

City council estimates the earliest sales could begin in April, but admit that it is a moving target.

By Brandon McCann