Already we had been hearing positive economic news about summer tourism and sales tax revenues in Manitou Springs, helping the town of 5,000 residents strengthen its business climate and its ability to deal with fire and flood mitigation costs.

Now comes another headline, one that has to reverberate across El Paso County.

On July 31, Maggie’s Farm opened the county’s first recreational marijuana store on the east side of Manitou. Last week, with a vote looming on whether to allow recreational sales to continue in Manitou, Maggie’s Farm owner Bill Conkling confirmed his business had paid more than $223,000 in taxes to Manitou’s city government in just two months.

With Manitou receiving a little more than 10 percent of the total revenue, that means Maggie’s Farm had about $2.25 million in sales for August and September. That’s right, more than $1 million a month.

Obviously, having the first recreational marijuana store in El Paso County makes a difference. Manitou has been the only city in the county to approve recreational sales, as the Colorado Springs City Council nixed the idea despite the city’s voters saying yes to Amendment 64 by a clear margin. Denver, Pueblo, Aurora, Salida, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Glenwood Springs and Leadville are among the other cities licensing retail stores.

There was more news from Manitou’s mayor, Marc Snyder, concerning the widespread concern over how his city might face new problems as a result of retail marijuana. Instead, Snyder said the side-effects of Maggie’s Farm have been all positive.

- Advertisement -

[pullquote]

Given Palmer Lake’s proximity to Douglas County, it suddenly could realize the same kind of windfall.

[/pullquote]In an op-ed column for the Pikes Peak Bulletin, Snyder said, “We now have some marijuana-related crime statistics to consider. Compared to the same months in 2013, August and September in 2014, since the store has opened, show a 16.7 percent decrease in calls for service and a 45 percent decrease in arrests. Police report a significant decline in black market drug activity in the area. … There has been no decline in tourism visits to Manitou Springs. In fact, many lodging, dining and other businesses anecdotally report a healthy increase in activity for August and September this year.”

Still, the now-ongoing election (all registered voters should have received their mail ballots Tuesday or Wednesday) could change everything.

Opponents to retail marijuana went the petition route and put a measure on Manitou’s ballot (called 2G) to prohibit recreational sales. If 2G passes, Maggie’s Farm would have the option of continuing legally in the same location as a medical marijuana dispensary or closing. But it’s safe to say most of Manitou’s $100,000-plus a month windfall in taxes would vanish.

And much of that money might go to Palmer Lake, which is voting in this same election whether to allow recreational marijuana within its boundaries on the county’s north edge. Given Palmer Lake’s proximity to Douglas County, which has no recreational stores, it suddenly could realize the same kind of windfall as Manitou.

Observers say both of those votes, in Manitou and Palmer Lake, will be close. But if one store in one corner of the metro area can pull $2.25 million of revenue in two months, with early reports indicating no negative impact on public safety, it’s safe to assume others will want some of that pie.

In other words, don’t be surprised to see a petition drive for a ballot issue in Colorado Springs next April.