COLORADO SPRINGS –
There are hundreds of places to buy marijuana in the City of Colorado Springs provided you have a doctor’s prescription. But the only place in all of El Paso County where shoppers can to buy recreational marijuana is in Manitou Springs.
A group calling themselves Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods want Colorado Springs City Council to change that.
“This is just allowing adults, 21 and up in Colorado Springs to have the option to buy it from a legal avenue instead of an illegal one which increases safety,” explained spokesman Mike Elliott.
Their group hired economics professor Jack Strauss from the University of Denver to calculate just how much tax money the City is missing out on by not permitting retail marijuana sales.
“Every year Colorado Springs could generate $20 million a year in new marijuana tax revenue,” Elliott said.
More precisely, Professor Strauss said Colorado Springs missed out on $18.1 million in taxes and fees this year and stands to lose another estimated $25.4 million in revenue in 2018.
He further calculates that a retail marijuana market would generate an additional 1,320 – 1,762 jobs for the region.
His calculations are based on assumptions about the size of the City’s population and relative demand for retail marijuana compared with other communities. It also incorporates money from the State of Colorado share-back program in which municipalities benefit from a portion of state sales taxes collected on retail marijuana.
He also assumes existing medical marijuana licensees would all apply to become retail stores.
Councilman Don Knight thinks the numbers in that study are a bit high, but even if the City could collect the $20 million a year that the Citizens claim, he still thinks the community would lose even more.
“That little bit of money that we’re going to bring in pales in comparison with what we could lose with this upcoming base realignment and closure,” Knight said.
He points out that our local military installations and all of the defense contractors who do business here because of their presence make up around 47 percent of the local economy. knight believes other cities will use marijuana legalization against Colorado Springs when in competing for Defense Department business.
“They’re going to walk the halls of the Pentagon and they’re going to walk the halls of Congress and they’re going to show that hey, we don’t have recreational marijuana.”
Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler doesn’t think the situation is that dire.
“Much of the Front Range already has recreational marijuana sales and they are not experiencing any drive out of their community of businesses military or otherwise.”
However, she also think the City needs to slow down and not rush into any decisions about retail marijuana sales with lots of public input.
“Make that a community conversation and figure out how we can best bring that forward to our community so they can have the voice on this issue,” Gaebler said.
In a statement to News 5, Mayor John Suthers took issue with Professor Strauss’s numbers.
“The study released today by a pro-marijuana interest group contains numbers that are inaccurate, as they are not based on Colorado Springs’ actual license and tax structure,” the statement reads.
It goes on to point out that the tax increase would likely trigger a refund under TABOR the Tax Payers Bill of Rights which puts growth limits on pace at which government revenue can rise.