Municipal bans on recreational-marijuana stores cover El Paso County like a heavy blanket, and for marijuana supporters who don't grow their own, it's a suffocating one at that. However, like a rush of oxygen, Manitou Springs and Palmer Lake may save the wayward sativa seeker from a trip too far.
For the northern town, it's a definite "may." Palmer Lake Wellness Center volunteer Susan Herrera says local lawmakers are right now convening a task force to study Amendment 64, but it's unknown whether a ban, regulation or a follow-up vote of the people will come. (The Indy was unable to reach a government representative for comment.)
It's a little clearer in Manitou, where Mayor Marc Snyder calls Colorado Springs City Council's decision to ban the stores his "worst-case scenario," due to the pressure it puts on his municipality. That said, he still posits that the locals' lopsided support of the amendment deserves to be recognized with two or three such stores. (For more on that, see Between the Lines, here.) Council will meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 13 to begin the discussion.
Meanwhile, Snyder's worst-case scenario looks pretty damn good for the sole medical marijuana dispensary in Manitou. Thanks to a state provision giving medical-marijuana center owners preferential treatment when applying for an RMJ license, Absolute Manitou Wellness' owners can start applying Oct. 1, says Snyder, while "the general public can't start applying until January 1."
Our calls to Reza Hassani, who also owns American Wellness Center in Colorado Springs, went unreturned, and we were unable to identify his other investors. But employee Jason Stier says the center's certainly cognizant of its potential head start in sales.
"If Manitou approves recreational, there would be absolutely no reason to not switch over to recreational; we've been operating well before the deadline to make that switch," says the 23-year-old budtender in the center's small, white-walled waiting room. "If possible, if we can find a way to divide it correctly ... we will probably try to split [and keep offering medical marijuana] as well."
With an estimated 53,000 county residents thought to be likely customers, the low-slung, nearly hidden building just inside city limits may take on quite a high profile. But first, it'll have to figure out the logistics.
The growing space for Absolute and American is currently located in Colorado Springs, and can't be converted to growing recreational plants because the city, of course, just decided it doesn't want that kind of thing. (The medically marked plants can stay.) Manitou also currently bans grow facilities, like it does all manufacturing. Additionally, an MMJ company can't move its operations out of its licensed area just because it wants to; according to statute, it can only move in response to a local ban.
"Basically, their Colorado Springs medical-marijuana license — as long as retail's banned in Colorado Springs — is not going to help them anywhere else in the state," says Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait.
Thus, it seems the company will have to apply for a new license in one of the few spots that haven't banned RMJ — which, the Denver Post reports, 56 communities across the state have already done — and hopefully ramp up its plant count quickly enough to meet the demand.
Unless something changes in Manitou, that is. Says Snyder, "That's something we'll have to revisit."
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