Colorado Springs voters could decide whether to allow recreational cannabis sales in the city next April — if, that is, pro-pot and anti-pot city leaders can find some common ground first. Recreational cannabis sales are currently banned in the Springs because of a city council vote last year, but in recent months councilwoman Jill Gaebler has been working to get a measure on the April 2015 ballot that would give voters the chance to repeal that ban. Her goal was to have council approve the proposal on August 11; if it failed then, she said, the public would still have time to collect enough signatures for a citizen initiative.
But two weeks ago, when the measure was brought up at a city council meeting, councilman Keith King threw a wrench in the works by demanding a 10 percent special city tax be included in the proposal. The tax would come on top of the 10 percent special state sales tax, the regular 2.9 percent state sales tax, the 1.23 percent El Paso County tax and the existing 2.5 percent Colorado Springs sales tax, bringing the total to more than 26 percent tax on a bag of herb.
With high prices on recreational cannabis due to price gouging and burdensome special taxes becoming such a concern that even lawmakers can’t ignore it, King’s proposal could likely have a chilling effect on recreational sales if Colorado Springs voters approve them.
Gaebler asked city attorney David Andrews to draft a measure in time for the meeting this past Monday, August 25 — but that was too tight of a deadline, it seems. Last night, Andrews came back to council and asked for guidance. His questions: Did the council want one proposal for voters that ties recreational sales and taxes together or two that separate the issues? And if the latter is the preferred option, do the two measures still tie together or could recreational sales pass without the tax question being approved?
The move irked King, who said he was frustrated with the delays, and other members agreed, since they mean there’ll be less time for a citizen initiative to gain steam. “Now we kicked it down the road,” Miller told the Colorado Springs Jill GaeblerGazette. “The whole reason was to give citizens time. Now we have cheated them out of two weeks.”
Andrews will now have to ready draft measures for the September 9 council meeting. If one or both of them fail to get approved, that would mean voters have fewer than six months to get the nearly 20,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the April 7 ballot.
This story originally ran at Westword.com.