Let us travel back to the dear, dead days beyond recall when Colorado voters, led by the eccentric Douglas Bruce, added the TABOR amendment to the state constitution in 1992.

As every subsequent Colorado politician has learned, the Bruce-drafted amendment prohibits local governments from raising or renewing taxes without a vote. Versions of the amendment had failed twice before, but the Dougster refused to give up, well understanding that he only had to succeed once.

Amendment 64 and TABOR – twin sons of different fathers?

Like TABOR, Amendment 64 has thousands of devoted adherents. Like TABOR, Amendment 64 appeals to our state’s cheerful libertarianism. We don’t want politicians raising our taxes without our permission, and we don’t like government telling us what to do in our private lives.

Bruce is famously controlling, but he made sure that TABOR’s local opt-out provisions could only be exercised by voters. Politicians couldn’t decide to de-Bruce – only the people. Bruce’s faith in the voters was absolute.

By contrast, the authors of Amendment 64 created a Kafkaesque bureaucratic tangle by allowing local elected officials to decide whether or not to permit retail marijuana sales. When the dust clears, we’ll have a strangely fragmented state.

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Want buy some bud? Not in El Paso County! Want to open a nationwide chain of marijuana providers, anticipating the eventual formal abandonment of marijuana prohibition? Not in El Paso County!

Colorado Springs voters approved Amendment 64, albeit by a considerably slimmer margin than TABOR.

Suppose Bruce had allowed local elected bodies to opt out of TABOR? There would be no TABOR – Colorado Springs would have opted out. We would have made some mealy-mouthed excuses – “Oh, we definitely support TABOR’s core principles, but it’s very badly drafted and allowing it to go into effect would cripple city government.”

I know, because I was there. We despised Bruce and all of his works, and were furious that he had duped the voters into supporting his lunatic proposals.

Twenty years, it’s déjà vu all over again. The County Commissioners may have voted to ban the demon weed, but the real action is at City Council. After a June 27 special meeting (bizarrely scheduled to start at 4 p.m.) Council will weigh in.

Councilmembers who oppose local marijuana sales already know their lines. “Oh, we support the will of the voters, but what were they smoking? We have to protect (choose one or all):”

  •  Innocent children
  • Our military bases
  • The ability to remember whatever it is that we’re supposed to remember
  • Our wholesome image

What will Council do? In an ideal world, they’d vote 9-0 to respect the will of the voters and allow retail marijuana sales within city limits. But this isn’t an ideal world, so it’s difficult to forecast the outcome.

One piece of advice, ladies and gentlemen: respect the will of the voters, and don’t make up stories about how they were deceived, misled, weren’t paying attention, etc., etc. You may have the power to tell those whom you represent how to live their lives, but that doesn’t mean you ought to.

And think of the headlines 16 years hence:

“Denver marijuana industry employment passes 20,000 – city unemployment rate at 2.7 percent.”

“Springs economy weakens as Mayor Keith King celebrates his 81st birthday – Council upholds marijuana ban.”





  1. If I recall correctly, “The Sky Will Fall Syndrome” was brought to bear when the matter of allowing medical marajuana came before both the city council and the board of county commissioners. The county just completely shut the matter down with very little public input. The city council at that time put forth a workmanlike effort to meet with all stakeholders over an extended period to work out a program that would meet the needs of all involved, in a manner to ensure there would be no undue risk to the city population at large. It seems to be working. Particularly for those who do, in fact, receive some benefit and pain relief.

    It would seem that the number of transactions that take place in the city will not decrease if the use is banned other than most purchases will take place at night! This matter, if handled correctly, could go along way toward erasing the image of the region as one being a little ‘stodgy’ and might in fact, do more to stimulate interest in the area by major employers to consider the area as a possible location. Of, course, that flies in the face of what we are being told, other than by the Pentagon!

    The military has far more critical issues with which to deal, primarily budgets and base closures. Does Colorado Springs allowing marijuana really even light up their radar? An additional 3 million dollars a year in revenue certainly lights up my radar at a time when it has been projected city revenues may remain ‘flat for another decade’ and the Mayor is working to eliminate the possibility the city could ‘technically be insolvent’ by 2020.

    Perhaps we should concentrate what will ‘turn on’ Silicon Valley and Redmond firms who are expanding and need a placed to go?

  2. Meanwhile over at the Anschutz Gazette, Wayne “the skank” Laugesen is urging City Council from the editorial page to ban pot sales. What a ho.

  3. Legal or not. People that want marijuana will get it. Why not make a little money instead of giving money to drug lords….

  4. Richard, “… if the use is banned …” is not the issue. The possession and use is already legal under A64. What the city can do is ban the retail sales.

    As for the Gazette’s editorial stand, there appears to be some conflict. In the June 2, 2013 editorial Wayne seems to support local retail sales as a means of preventing sales to military: “A legal, taxed and regulated environment gives local politicians the opportunity to create severe penalties for anyone who sells or otherwise provides marijuana to military personnel.”

    Then on June 9th, the Gazette’s Viewpoint states: “City council should make the courageous decision not to allow retail marijunna sales.”

    Hmmm…wonder what happened during the week between the 2nd and the 9th?

  5. Bernie

    Thanks for pointing out and/or clarifying the distinction of what is before council ie: approval or ban on the ‘sale’ of recreational marijuana as opposed to my mistaken reference to the ‘use’ of – as that has already been decided.

  6. With all the arguments of all the pros and cons surrounding this issue what ultimately will decide the vote comes down to is money. Will the treat of military bases pulling out and businesses decideing to not locate in town cost the city more than the the revenue from pot shops? This will decide the vote.

    Remember 2008 when the tax measure did not pass, money drove the budget cuts that turned off street lights, left weeds growing in the medians, left park maint to the citizens, reduced city services etc etc. Us citizen were left to care of the parks and trim median weeds ourselves while crime increased with not enough police available to respond when 911 is called….

    It’s no different at jobs I have worked at, we may have lofty core value goals hanging on the walls, but when it comes down to production goals not being met resulting in lost revenue, the lofty core values are sadly replaced with repercussions to workers including yelling, shaming, threats and even abuse.

    We can argue all we want about public safety, how businesses won’t come to town, how weed helps those in cronic pain etc etc etc etc etc – But money is what will ultimately drive this issue…

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