The sale of recreational marijuana was approved 6-1 in Manitou Springs Tuesday night, becoming the first city in the Pikes Peak region to accept legislation allowing for the sale of legal marijuana for recreational use.
The City Council voted in August to delay the vote on the adoption of this law until after December 31, 2013 even though 68 percent of its residents initially voted in favor.
In an interview with The Gazette, Laurie Wood, the Manitou Springs School District 14 director of Partners for Healthy Choices, said, “It’s [the legalization of marijuana shops] certainly not bad timing. We’ve had medical marijuana for a few years. To me it seemed like a good time to do it.”
Sales could begin as early as April, according to Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder.
Whereas most people around the world woke up on Jan. 1 with plans to lose weight, save money, and eat more healthily, many Coloradans and out-of-state tourists had their minds fixated on the closest, newly opened recreational marijuana dispensaries.
On New Year’s Day, also known this year as Green Wednesday to many pot enthusiasts, the side of Amendment 64 allowing the retail sale of recreational marijuana went into effect in cities across Colorado. The amendment, which was passed with 55 percent of the vote last November, allows for the sale, consumption, possession, and cultivation of recreational marijuana to people over the age of 21.
Colorado residents who voted in favor of the legislation had reasons other than being able to legally sell and purchase marijuana.
“I voted in favor because I believe consenting adults should be able to do what they want,” said Loomis RLC, Zak Kroger, who majored in psychology at Central Washington University. “The ironic process theory says that the more you tell people ‘Don’t do this,’ the more they’ll do it. Let them learn themselves.”
From an economic perspective, the marijuana industry has already proven to reel in substantial revenue for both business and the government. According to The Gazette, the first week of retail sales was estimated to be about $5 million.
The National Cannabis Industry predicts the annual revenue in 2014 to be around $400 million (the first official sale record is due Feb. 20). With the combined 25 percent state and excise taxes, $70 million will be given to the state. Each year, $40 million of the $70 million will go state school construction, per the law’s legislation.
Professor of Southwest Studies Santiago Guerra, who teaches a class on the drug war, also voted in favor of Amendment 64, but for research rather than free-choice reasons.
“I wasn’t sure if it would be successful when I voted in favor,” said Guerra. “The fact that cities could opt out of the pot shops made it more feasible for people across the state to vote in favor.”
Unlike Colorado’s two other major cities, Boulder and Denver, the Colorado Springs City Council voted 5-4 to ban recreational marijuana stores. According to the legislation, no city could opt out of legalizing possession.
“One of the main reasons why Colorado Springs was against this [recreational marijuana sales] was because of the armed forces installations. It makes sense why they wouldn’t want to put individuals in the armed forces at risk,” said Guerra. “That isn’t to say they aren’t using; it just makes access harder.”
In fact, according to the Huffington Post, the first person to buy recreational marijuana in Colorado was Sean Azzariti, an out-of-state Iraqi War veteran who has since used his “Bubba Kush” to help alleviate symptoms from PTSD.
A major concern raised by voters in Colorado Springs and the state was that legalization of both shops and possession would increase accessibility of marijuana to students and kids.
Guerra, on the other hand, disagrees, arguing that neither the legalization of medicinal marijuana nor the legalization of recreational marijuana made pot any easier to attain.
“I don’t think it makes it any less accessible than it does with medical marijuana laws,” said Guerra. “A lot of young people already have access through the medical marijuana system because people with med cards could legally purchase more and resell it on the black market. I don’t think there will be much change in the CC drug market.”
“If it’s a matter of buying recreational over a drug dealer, then yeah I would. But if it’s recreational over medical marijuana, no way – I wouldn’t want to spend the extra money on poorer quality pot,” said freshman Hunter Lee
An eighth of an ounce of recreational marijuana generally sells for $50 to $60, double the price of the same amount purchased from a medical dispensary that is generally of higher quality. Marijuana from illegal black market dealers could be even lower.