With 100 percent of precincts reporting as Tuesday turned to Wednesday, County Question 1A looked headed for passage, meaning that medical marijuana centers would be banned in unincorporated El Paso County.
But a final load of mail ballots, dropped at 4:30 a.m., Wednesday, tipped the scales the other way. So after going to bed fearing the worst, MMJ advocates woke up to good news after all: The ban would fail.
"This is a pretty insane little election here," said Michael Elliott, campaign manager for pro-MMJ group Citizens for Safer Communities, on Wednesday morning. "Somehow we gained votes between 1 o'clock and 7 o'clock this morning — went from losing by a little bit to winning by a little bit."
A very little bit: A total of 331 votes stands between the MMJ industry and passage of a ban that could have had larger implications. Colorado Springs City Councilor Tom Gallagher has previously said that voter approval of 1A could push Council to propose a citywide ban of its own, something it has thus far declined to do.
Of course, an automatic recount is likely to be triggered, leaving the outcome technically in doubt for a while longer.
"I'm still freaking out," said Tanya Garduno, president of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, on Wednesday. "I didn't actually go to sleep until probably 3 o'clock, and that's just because I couldn't stay awake any more. And so I was back up at 6:30, checking things out."
Elliott said he was worried, but thought something might come together in the end: "I had this feeling that we were going to pull it off at the last minute, like all night."
Question 1A's failure also means that the county may avoid costly legal issues. CFSC lawyers have said that by taking actions to regulate MMJ centers, then allowing for their dissolution just months later, the county could have committed a compensable violation.
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