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Pot proponents endorse stormwater fee 

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Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods (C4SN) — the Colorado Springs group that briefly made a push for a retail sales question on this November’s ballot — isn’t going away. Rather, it’s preparing for a citizens-initiated process to get onto next November’s ballot, when midterm congressional and high-profile statewide elections are likely to draw higher voter turnout.

That means the group of community activists, business owners and industry advocates is busy drafting ballot language ahead of a six-month signature-gathering period. In the meantime, C4SN is speaking up about a measure that did make it onto this year’s ballot: Issue 2A, which aims to establish a dedicated fee for the city’s neglected stormwater infrastructure.

C4SN’s endorsement, according to a press release, has a non-marijuana-related rationale: “Association members do business and live in Colorado Springs, and understand that the City is desperately in need of additional revenue to enhance safety and the quality of life.”

Recall from the Indy’s past reporting that C4SN commissioned an economic impact study estimating that allowing adult-use marijuana establishments in Colorado Springs would generate about $17 million in local tax revenue annually — an amount some, including Mayor John Suthers, have called inflated. That $17 million estimate, however, is roughly equal to the amount the new stormwater fee would generate for the city, freeing up general fund dollars for other urgent needs, like hiring more police.

But if stormwater fees improve the city’s finances, will that diminish support for recreational marijuana, given that weed proponents often argue that allowing the sales would help the city better meet its needs?

Mike Elliott, C4SN’s spokesperson, doesn’t think so. “There’s a lot of potential for marijuana tax money to do really positive things to improve quality of life here, even if stormwater passes,” he says.

He also believes that popular support for recreational marijuana is there, regardless of needs in the city budget. In 2012, a majority of Colorado Springs voters approved Amendment 64, the state constitutional provision that established retail marijuana sales, Elliott points out. He sees an overall trend toward acceptance.

A Gallup poll released on Oct. 25 showed record high support for legalizing marijuana nationwide, with 64 percent of respondents saying pot use should be legal. According to a Gallup summary of those findings, “[T]his year for the first time, a majority of Republicans express support for legalizing marijuana; the current 51 [percent] is up nine percentage points from last year.”

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