Colorado Springs residents who voted for Amendment 64 were understandably disappointed to watch City Council opt out (as was permitted) a year later. That disappointment morphed into indignation as city officials repeatedly and methodically tightened marijuana regulations up to the brink of what's permitted by state constitutional amendments.
Now that indignation is manifesting as activism aimed at aligning city policy more closely with what most citizens want.
"I'll be honest, a month ago if you had asked me who the mayor was, I didn't know," says Anthony Robinson, aka Zip Floppyjoints, owner of the My Club 420 cannabis club. "But I've woken up."
Robinson and his club are part of a coalition of eight cannabis clubs across the city wanting a referendum on Council's recent vote to ban such clubs.
That decision came down on March 23, when Council voted to prohibit the opening of any new cannabis clubs, mandate licensure for all clubs that operated prior to the moratorium (subject to all sorts of new rules) and force those clubs to close doors by 2024 at the latest. Before those ordinances officially passed, strategies for undoing them already had begun forming. Now, two are in action.
One is a lawsuit filed in district court by Denver-based attorney Robert Corry on behalf of nine establishments and 14 individuals. The complaint asks for the ordinance to be struck down for violating the plaintiffs' right of association, freedom of speech and due process under the U.S. Constitution, as well as their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, religious freedom and the right to medical and personal use of marijuana under the Colorado Constitution.
The other mounting challenge is a petition filed with the city clerk's office this week by the People's Social Alliance (PSA), consisting of My Club 420, The Dab Lounge, One Love Club, Canna Canyon, The Lazy Lion, Springs Dreams, The Pothole and Studio A64.
City Clerk Sarah Johnson says that per City Charter guidelines, the group must gather 14,649 valid signatures to force a referendum, which basically asks Council to consider repealing the ban it already passed. If Council declines, voters would get the opportunity to repeal the ban in a special election within 90 days.
In pursuit of those signatures, the PSA will focus on canvassing the pockets of the city that voted most heavily in favor of Amendment 64, according to Robinson. "We're expecting 200 volunteers by the end of the week," he told the Independent. "And most of them are vets. We're going to be everywhere. We're going to get it done."
The so-called "ban" on cannabis clubs really consists of three ordinances: one that prohibits the establishment of new clubs and requires existing clubs to shut down by 2024; one that creates a marijuana consumption club license those grandfathered clubs must obtain; and one that establishes a fee structure for the new license. In other words, the PSA has to turn in three separate petitions with 14,649 valid signatures each to force a referendum on the whole shebang.
The deadline is 5 p.m. April 21, and the ordinances won't take effect until a resolution is reached.
City Clerk Johnson says an unscheduled special election isn't in this year's budget. "It would cost around $300,000, and we don't have that in the election account," she told the Independent. "The city would have to come up with it somehow."
Robinson sees this petition process as the first step toward getting the local government to reflect the will of the people.
"The fact is, this is how the Republican party started, this is how the Democratic party started," Robinson mused. "Political movements start in bars, and we're getting pretty galvanized in here."