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.
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.”