When recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012, cities were left to decide whether or not they would permit recreational sales. There were only a few cities in the state that denied their residents the ability to buy legal pot. Colorado Springs was one of them.
Millions in Marijuana Tax Revenue Throughout Colorado…But Not in Colorado Springs
Since 2012, Colorado has seen the biggest boom in marijuana history. At the forefront of the legal marijuana movement, Colorado became the state others would turn to when implementing their own legal marijuana policies. By 2016, just a few short years after recreational sales hit the Rocky Mountain mainstream, the state was seeing some $200 million in tax revenue.
Denver alone brought in $24 million, money that has been wisely spent to spruce up the Mile-High City. A recreation center was built close to downtown, among several other improvements around the state’s capitol city. The neighboring city of Aurora used part of the $16 million they received in marijuana tax money to help the homeless.
Colorado Springs hasn’t received a dime of recreational marijuana tax money. And many people are speaking up about it. Colorado Springs City Council President and owner of Poor Richards Café and Bookstore in Downtown Colorado Springs, Richard Skorman, is one of them.
“People are going all over this state to buy marijuana and it’s outrageous. It’s already legal,” Skorman says. “It’s in the state’s constitution.”
He says it’s aggravating to watch “sales tax leakage” flow to surrounding cities.
Less Than 5 Miles Away from Colorado Springs, Neighboring City Manitou Springs Rakes in Marijuana Money
Less than five miles from Colorado Springs is neighboring city Manitou Springs. It’s known for its funky, eclectic vibe where musicians play music on the streets and local artists converge. And it’s got an amazing vintage arcade that fills up three separate building. Manitou also has two recreational dispensaries on the outskirts of its downtown area.
Last year, Manitou’s dispensaries brought in about $1 million in tax revenue. While tourists line up at the doors in droves, some of these sales were from residents who live in Colorado Springs. It’s only about a ten-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs, inciting many city residents to drive the extra few miles to purchase some legal pot.
While former Manitou Springs mayor Nancy Morgan adamantly opposed legal pot when it first passed, she now says “legal pot has really helped the city.”
“I thought it was terrible,” Morgan says. “But really this has been a learning experience.”
If Colorado Springs was to join the numerous other cities around the state that have legalized recreational marijuana, it’s estimated the city would bring in around $20 million in tax revenue each year.
Conservative Views in Colorado Springs Keeping Recreational Weed Sales at Bay
There are several people who support legal weed in Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers isn’t one of them.
“I may well be behind the times,” Suthers said, “some have called me a ‘drug war dinosaur,’ but I remain absolutely convinced its terrible public policy. People should not be getting high for fun.…We’re creating a generation of young marijuana users who will go on to become lifelong drug abusers.”
Colorado Springs is known to be one of the more conservative cities in Colorado, but there is also a large majority of the city that don’t identify themselves as the least bit conservative.
Tom Scudder, who owns two medical marijuana dispensaries, says his businesses are suffering. Scudder says, “Not having legal sales here is wrecking my business and hurting this community. We are literally allowing money to walk right out of this city. For what? Because of some ‘so-called’ conservative values.”
It’s likely the push to lift the ban on recreational sales will be a major issue on the ballot in the Colorado Springs in the 2018.