UPDATE: Colorado Springs City Council's 5 to 4 vote to end the possibility of recreational-marijuana stores in the city upended retired criminal-defense attorney Dennis Sladek's plans to open one. Thus, he's suing the city of Colorado Springs, City Council and Mayor Steve Bach in district court in an attempt to have the overall ability for any municipality to ban such facilities, declared unconstitutional.
The wording in Amendment 64 "is a denial of due process," Sladek says in a phone interview with the Indy, "because they're taking away my constitutionally protected right to operate a business. It's a property right, it's a liberty interest, and they're taking that away without the right to have a hearing, and go forward with that, and that's why I brought this action."
So, since the lawsuit's aimed at the statute itself, a successful suit would ultimately eliminate municipality bans across the state, right?
"Let's put it this way: It would certainly lay a nice framework for people to go forward with it," says the 70-year-old, who also owns a golf-products company.
"I'm not trying to create the proverbial head shop. It has to be regulated, it has to be taxed, it has to be controlled, everything, across the board, it has to be done right," he says. "And I'm looking at it from an economic standpoint: Look at the revenue that the city can garner by doing it. And that's what's so ridiculous: Bach wants to go ahead and spend money to build a baseball stadium downtown, and here we have an opportunity to create a tremendous amount of revenue."
As far as reasons like those cited by City Councilor Val Snider: "Their argument about kids and everything is the biggest pile of crap I've ever heard: Kids today can get their hands on anything they want."
And when it comes to what kind of shot the suit has, 22 years of local practice have taught Sladek one thing, he says. "There's no way you can predict how something is gonna turn out. The only thing you can do is go forward, and put your best shot at it. I mean, I've seen instances on appeals where you're looking at an appeal, like, 'Oh yeah, this is a slam dunk,' and they rule against you. There's no rhyme or reason. If you don't try, you can't win."
And since John Ingold at the Denver Post reported yesterday that nine of the 10 largest cities in the state have banned RMJ stores, Sladek will symbolically be taking them all on. Worried about the time it might all take, though?
"I don't mind," he says. "I don't mind — it's fun."
Plus: "I don't know what Bach is trying to prove, but with this thing, when you go telling the City Council, 'If you vote this way, I'm gonna veto it,' who the hell are you, you know?"
——- ORIGINAL POST, 4:18 P.M., FRIDAY, July 26, 2013 ———
We have the barest of information at the moment, but we've spoken with local attorney Dennis Sladek who says he is filing a legal complaint this afternoon in regard to Colorado Springs City Council's decision to opt out of allowing recreational-marijuana stores.
We're scheduled to speak with Sladek later today and will update this post.
The Marijuana Policy Project will screen a new TV ad at this weekend's Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will air a dozen times throughout the weekend on a jumbotron at the venue's entrance, the advocacy group announced.
"The ad, which is reminiscent of a beer commercial, highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol by characterizing marijuana a 'new "beer"' that is less harmful to the consumer and to society," reads the press release. "It points out that marijuana has no calories, does not produce hangovers because it is less toxic, and does not contribute to the violent and reckless behavior frequently linked to alcohol use."
See it here:
Earlier this afternoon, a room packed with people went absolutely silent when it was made clear that Colorado Springs City Council had voted 5 to 4 to not allow recreational-marijuana stores in the city. "I hope you're happy," yelled one man, breaking the oppressive quiet.
Despite previously telling the Indy "we have to figure out a way to regulate" recreational marijuana, Councilman Val Snider surprisingly joined four other Councilors in passing an ordinance opting out of the ability to purchase the plant in retail stores.
"I have a hard time grappling with this being illegal on the federal level, so that certainly swayed my vote," he said to the packed City Hall. "I have a tough time talking to an attorney that works for the state of Colorado that says this would be a terrible image to the youth of this area. I wanna watch the city of Denver as they work to regulate and to see how that turns out, and maybe, yes, we could bring this back to Colorado Springs.
"I guess, bottom line: I'm not convinced that we need to make it more accessible for the youth here to go out and buy it, so I will be voting for opting out."
Outside of Snider, everyone else fell along expected lines, with Councilors Keith King, Jill Gaebler, Helen Collins and Jan Martin all voting in favor of allowing RMJ stores.
"As an elected official myself, I just couldn't imagine making a decision that goes against what the voters of, not only Colorado, but the city of Colorado Springs wanted," said Martin before voting. She added a little later: "I don't know if any of the rest of you noticed today, but I really see that this is a generational issue. I see many of the younger people in our community not threatened by this; [who] actually look forward to opening up and regulating this for our community."
Joined by Councilors Don Knight, Joel Miller, Merv Bennett and Snider in voting against RMJ stores, Councilman Andres Pico expressed a sentiment that was also tied to voting numbers.
"The precincts within my district, only four out of 20 voted for Amendment 64, and that's a pretty significant thing," said Pico. "So, I absolutely will respect the vote of the people in District 6 and ensure their voice is heard in this discussion."
The vote removes the threat of further Council conflict with Mayor Steve Bach, who threatened to veto anything that wasn't an outright ban.
"I know this is a really tough issue — it may be the toughest I've seen in my two years of being mayor," Bach said at the beginning of the meeting. "Because I know we all care about free-market systems and we cherish individual liberties as sacrosanct in this country and in this city. ... Despite that, despite my lifelong principle of believing in free markets and individual liberties, I urge you today, once again, to opt out."
The vote leaves Pueblo County and Manitou Springs as the two nearest localities that have not banned the stores.
As for Colorado Springs' future, there's always this:
Worth noting: Marijuana supporters could run initiative in 2014 to bring recreational marijuana sales to Colorado Springs. But none for now.
— John Ingold (@john_ingold) July 23, 2013
Don McKay, owner of Southern Colorado Medical Marijuana, posted a similar comment on the Gazette's story:
"Shocker," he wrote. "Oh well, we will do it the way we do everything, the hard way. Gather signatures, special election, overturn the ban, oust the ones that give the bird to the voice of those that elected them. We are all pretty tired of the good ol boys club and have the clout to do something about it."
The future of recreational-marijuana stores in Colorado Springs is looking a little more grim today with two things: a statement from City Councilor Don Knight saying he would vote to opt-out of allowing the dispensaries, and a report from the Gazette citing a likely veto from Mayor Steve Bach of any allowing ordinances.
First, here's Knight's e-mailed statement: “To the Citizens of District 1, tomorrow I will vote to opt-out of recreational marijuana sales," he writes. "My first concern is whether opting-out, versus licensing sales, best keeps recreational marijuana away from minors. ...
"Second, I weighed the proposed revenue from recreational sales against any unintended consequences to our two major economic drivers — military and tourism. The loss of tens of millions of dollars from either would more than offset the $3.9 million in marijuana tax revenue Sensible Colorado Action predicts for Colorado Springs.
"Finally, I took an oath to support both the constitutions of the United States and Colorado. Marijuana is still against Federal law. ..."
And today, Monica Mendoza at the daily paper had this:
[Knight] joins three other council members - Merv Bennett, Andy Pico and Joel Miller - who have said they are against allowing pot shops.
Even if the other five council members vote to approve and regulate marijuana sales, Mayor Steve Bach said Monday he'll veto the measure. It would take a two-thirds vote of the council to overturn the veto.
"And council does not have that," King said. "It's already over."
Despite all that, Councilwoman Jill Gaebler says we should all just wait for tomorrow's 1 p.m. meeting and vote at City Hall.
This conclusion is premature to be sure. "Council president says retail pot sales in Colorado Springs unlikely" http://t.co/798Cj4ux1m
— Jill Gaebler (@jillgaebler) July 22, 2013
Names matter, and in the fight over marijuana accessibility, it's one of the most visible ways advocates attempt to influence how the plant's perceived. We're conscious of this word play at the Indy, and sometimes get criticized for failing to always address Her Leafiness as "cannabis," but we'd quickly kill ourselves if we couldn't throw in an occasional "weed" or "pot" or "skunky dank-diggity."
And, of course, outside of the paper's editorial positioning, we in the newsroom have no position on the plant's success or failure one way or the other. But others have more at stake, argues Roy Kaufmann in a piece for the Medical Marijuana Business Daily, and as the push forward comes, should speak accordingly.
#2. Know your audience today and tomorrow. Millions of Americans, from suburban parents to seniors, will slowly enter the cannabis marketplace in the months and years ahead. Most of them will be familiar with language used in the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Meet them where they are. Use “frames” they understand. For example:
• If you’re a medical marijuana professional, do you have “customers” or “patients”?
• Do they “use” marijuana for some unnamed illness, or do they “take” cannabis for pain relief from glaucoma? Remember, the frames most people will bring with them are: Drug + user = addict, criminal, etc. But medicine + taker = responsible patient, reasonable adult, etc.
• Jargon and slang are handy; they’re also hindering. What does that mean? Don’t assume that the medical patients or adult-use consumers entering the marketplace will know what slang terms like “dank” or technical jargon like “endo-cannabinoid” mean. If the shared, grander goal is to remove the stigma and legitimize the industry that is cannabis, then use words your audiences will understand.
Personally, I think it's the Rastafarian vibe, "booth babes," and strains with names like Green Crack, God's Vagina and Killa Crip Kush that hurt the medical-marijauna industry's legitimacy. As it transitions into the mainstream world with a recreational vibe, though, who's to say it can't be called whatever it wants?
A recent study from the Colorado Futures Center — a Denver-based public-policy research arm of Colorado State University — caused a bit of a fuss when it was released in April. In the estimating of how much tax revenue the state of Colorado might expect, authors Charles Brown and Phyllis Resnick found that it was possible the money collected would be insufficient to properly fund industry regulation.
"The latest research just confirms that marijuana proponents' promises to Colorado voters that Amendment 64 would be a financial gain to the state were empty," the Denver Post quoted anti-marijuana activist Diane Carlson, one of Smart Colorado's directors, as saying. "Even if voters approve the recreational-marijuana tax, the new pot market could be a net drain on the state's budget, the study indicates. That means funds for education, roads and other top priorities could be diverted to marijuana regulation."
During the city of Colorado Springs' own debate over recreational marijuana, multiple people — including leadership in the Colorado Springs Police Department, as well as Springs resident Jo McGuire, a member of Gov. John Hickenlooper's original task force on Amendment 64 — have cited the Futures Center's study as proof that RMJ is too risky to wade into.
Well, in a recent interview with the Independent, Resnick says that, while there are probably things the state should have required, what it did end up requiring is likely fundable.
"Unfortunately, that was a finding that I think was misinterpreted on our part," says the economist. "When we wrote our paper, the Legislature hadn’t passed the bill with all the regulations in it yet. And we were working off the governor’s task-force recommendations, which had far broader recommendations, not only for regulation, but public health studies, and law enforcement studies, and a whole bunch of ancillary services around reporting, and everything else.
"I think in the time that passed, between when we wrote our piece and when the final bill came out, they paired down what they are absolutely gonna require for the state, in terms of regulation, and I think they took out a bunch of those studies and some of the other more broader looks at the impact of marijuana.
"And so, given that, probably there is enough money there to just fund the straight regulation. But we’re not convinced that there’s enough there to fund all the other things that were recommended, and some of which we probably should be doing ..."
Last night, Colorado Springs City Council held a roughly five-hour meeting at City Hall to hear from people on whether or not recreational-marijuana stores should be allowed or banned in the city. Among local jurisdictions, both El Paso County and Woodland Park have already declined to host the facilities.
The meeting started with a pre-set slate of speakers who were each given seven minutes. After that, speakers from the general public were allotted three minutes each. No vote was taken by Council; it's holding a work session on July 8 with action to come July 23.
Below are my tweets about the event, as well as a few from other community members tweeting along.
It comes right before this Thursday's event at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., where Colorado Springs City Council members will hear public testimony regarding the possible regulation of recreational-marijuana stores. Stark's planning a march to the event from his downtown cannabis club.
Colorado Springs City Council is scheduled to hear from the public regarding recreational marijuana at 4 p.m., Thursday, June 27, at City Hall. But before that happens, the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council wants to make sure all its ducks are in row and quacking the same song, so it has scheduled the following:
It took our sister paper, the Colorado Springs Business Journal, about one week to debunk claims made by retired generals in front of City Council that recreational marijuana would be the end of life as we know it. Here are reporters Amy Gillentine and John Hazlehurst quoting a Pentagon spokesman on the possibility of Amendment 64 hurting local military possibilities:
“I wouldn’t think so,” said Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson. “Military personnel are still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which clearly prohibits marijuana use. They can’t use it, and we all get drug tested.
“But we won’t move assets out of states where it is legal now.”
Of course, as the story notes, this little bit of reality did very little to assuage the manufactured fears of people like Mike Jorgensen, the president of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
“The Pentagon could say, ‘We don’t have this problem in Texas, let’s move the soldiers there,’” he told the Business Journal. “It’s so controversial still, outside the area. And while no one said this will happen, the concern is there.”
And isn't that what's important, that this thing no one is saying will happen — that those in the know are confirming won't happen — might happen?
So put it on your calendar: City Council will hear public input at 1 p.m., Tuesday, June 27, at City Hall, and decide later if it's as afraid of the known as everybody else seems to be.
Yesterday, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach called recreational marijuana a "public safety issue," and indicated that he's likely to advocate for a ban on pot shops in his city. Bach added that he'd had discussions with Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder regarding a possible ban in the more liberal tourist town.
Intrigued, we followed up with Snyder. And in a voicemail to the Indy, Snyder says while he's not looking at a ban, he is looking at something.
"Basically, I don’t think a ban is really an option out here in Manitou: We had some pretty high numbers in support of every marijuana measure that’s been on the ballot in the last few years," Snyder says. "However, I have expressed concern that I don’t wanna be the only jurisdiction in El Paso County that is going to allow for retail centers.
"My concern is if Colorado Springs doesn’t allow retail marijuana, then the pressure’d be enormous on Manitou. And I don’t want our little town to be overrun with a dozen retail centers and really become kind of a mecca for marijuana activity," says the mayor. "So, if that were the case, if Colorado Springs were to enact a ban, then I’d probably be looking at some type of cap — a density cap, or even just an outright limit on the number of establishments that we might allow out here in Manitou."
While Mayor Steve Bach didn't exactly come right out, at his monthly press conference, and say he plans to push for a ban on recreational marijuana, he did make it clear that he not only considers the plant a safety risk to the citizens of Colorado Springs, but also a risk to the city's job-sector and economy as whole.
"I’ll be going to City Council on Tuesday, the 28th of May, and during 'mayor’s comments' I’m going to express to City Council my recommendation to them on this matter," said Bach in response to a question from TV newsman Eric Singer. "I will tell you where I’m leaning: Recreational marijuana is not only a public-safety issue of great concern to the city — the police chief can verify that for you — it is also, I believe, a very serious economic development issue.
"You know, I spend a lot of my time, around our city, calling on our primary employers to thank them for being here and employing our citizens, and asking what our city can to do to help them be successful," Bach said. "And I’m told over and over, by defense contactors and primary employers of all types, that they’re very concerned about this matter, the commercial sale of recreational marijuana."
Asked if a ban wouldn't be a smack in the face to the city's purported support of small businesses, Bach compared recreational marijuana to porn.
"And when you talk about small businesses, um, I would just offer that adult bookstores are small businesses; I’m not sure we wanna allow those around the city. So we have to be thoughtful.
"I do agree with Council — we ought to have plenty of public conversation; the citizens oughta be able to weigh in on this — but what I’m hearing from a lot of primary employers is they’re watching this very closely, as to what we’re gonna do about this."
A press release from the proponents of marijuana legalization — including Mason Tvert, Betty Aldworth and Christian Sederberg, who we interviewed for a story on the amendment's task force — says "numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64."
"The proposal entails the General Assembly referring an unconstitutional measure to the November 2013 ballot in addition to the measure required to establish excise and sales tax levels for marijuana sold under the provisions of Amendment 64," reads the release. "The unconstitutional measure would amend the Colorado State Constitution to entirely repeal Amendment 64 if the voters do not approve the tax levels proposed by legislators."
The Denver Post reports the move is getting a fair amount of consideration from legislators, but faces a steep path to becoming reality.
"[Rep. Frank] McNulty said lawmakers who support the idea haven't agreed on final language for a repeal proposal, instead saying that — with only 13 days left in the session — they are still working on 'finding the right mix,'" wrote John Ingold. "It is unclear whether supporters have the backing of legislative leadership to introduce a bill this late in the session or whether they could amend it onto the existing bill on marijuana taxes. And it is unclear whether they would be able to generate the two-thirds support needed at the Capitol for lawmakers to put a measure repealing a constitutional amendment to voters."
There's a full-on revolution in Colorado music, driven by last November's passage of Amendment 64. OK, actually maybe there's just been a handful of songs, but that's still more than Amendment 65 has generated. What, musicians: Limiting corporate contributions and expenditures doesn't jazz you the way a mom-and-pop weed shop does? Well, guess I can't argue with that.
So, after entertaining the hip-hop strains delivered by the Rocky Mountain Kyngz, then Jay the 420 Kid, we bring you local group Bear Scat Mountain's "Amendment 64," a bouncy little bluegrass number with a message of celebration.
"After a while, you know, I came to find / I got more done when I was of clear mind / But when I want to escape the Rat Race / and put my mind in a different kind of place / One thing that can help with that need / is if I find a little God-given weed / and since we live in the Land of the Free / there's no way this should be a felony."
Like the Rocky Mountain Kyngz before him, who wrote the Amendment 64 anthem, Jay the 420 Kid wanted to send-up the local recreational-marijuana scene in stylish verse. This time the topic's a little more specific: the lovely stuff found at Club 710, the cannabis social group, and the Weed Pimps (who we covered here).
Here's some of "Weed Pimp Club 710 Anthem":
"There's been new strains, new things that I've never seen / I've never taken dabs 'til I met WP," raps the 420 Kid around the two-minute mark, referencing smoking hash. "Ooh-wee, I got an ounce of that skunk / pass me a bowl and I'll load that shit up / I don't bogart the stuff, I like smoking people up / And when I got a pound we smokin' blunt after blunt"