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MMJ: Are we there yet? 

A day removed from being the linchpin in the Colorado Springs City Council's 5-4 decision not to refer a medical marijuana center ban to the November ballot, Scott Hente is feeling upbeat.

"You know they say a good politician pisses everybody off? I think I'm probably the best politician in the country," Hente says, laughing, "because I've pissed everybody off."

In Monday's informal meeting, Hente was one of five Council members to oppose Councilor Darryl Glenn's proposal to add the ballot question, killing the possibility that Colorado Springs would vote on MMJ before the April municipal election. (The El Paso County Board of Commissioners will take up a similar question in its Aug. 26 meeting, but a vote there would affect only centers in unincorporated areas.)

The positions were interesting: Vice Mayor Larry Small and Councilor Jan Martin had previously voted to license centers, but wanted residents to vote on a possible ban; Hente had previously opposed licensure.

"So I think Darryl would've thought that because of the fact that I had voted against [dispensaries originally], I'd be a natural ally for putting them on the ballot," Hente says. "But my larger issue is, I have always been a big believer in representative government."

Hente says that, though he's opposed to dispensaries, Council's earlier licensure vote made the decision for him:

"I thought I had an internal principle that I would've violated if I would've said, 'OK, yeah, we take this to the voters because I didn't get my way.'"

On the other side, Glenn says ballot referral was never his pet issue.

"It's one of those things where I fulfilled my obligation, that I felt I needed to bring this issue forward as representative of my district," he says, adding: "I think it's going to be a major campaign issue for the April election."

In agreement is Tanya Garduno, president of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council.

"Between now and April, hopefully we can show that we're a viable and productive part of the community," she says. "If the Let Us Vote folks want to continue forward with their initiative, then we'll continue forward combating it with education."

Though Let Us Vote COS failed to garner enough signatures to place the issue on the November ballot, leader Steve Wind has made clear in previous conversations with the Indy that he expects greater success between now and Dec. 15, when he says he'll turn in all material to the City Clerk's office.

Still, Hente is skeptical.

"They claim, and maybe they're right, they claim that they have this overwhelming majority of the community that are opposed to [dispensaries]," he says. "And so my comment is, if you do have this overwhelming majority, then it should be easy to get the required number of signatures. But don't ask me to violate my beliefs and do your work for you."

In the end, referral or not, Glenn says the effort was not a total loss.

"You know, when it's that close, it's important to air that out publicly so that people understand where people are," he says. "And I think that they have a clear indication of where the Council representatives are, each one, on what their position is, and now I'm turning it over to the public."

bryce@csindy.com

  • City's MMJ industry dodges November ballot question.

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