The town of Palmer Lake will be revisiting the issue of recreational marijuana.
In 2014, recreational pot was a topic that split the town of 2,500 down the middle. Two years ago the residents of Palmer Lake voted on two marijuana-related ballot issues, one to allow retail recreational sales in the town (which was defeated 716 to 631) and one that would create a three-year moratorium on any recreational shops, which passed 710 to 634. That ballot issue also said the city could allow recreational sales only after a vote of the people.
Despite the moratorium, recreational marijuana and a new way to tax it is on the town’s ballot in November due to the efforts of Regulate Palmer Lake, spearheaded by Melissa Woodward and her mother, Brenda, who are Palmer Lake residents and wholesale cannabis growers.
The Woodwards own and operate a grow operation that has been in business for about a year and a half. They collected signatures from the required 5 percent of registered voters in the town to get two measures — 300 and 301 — on the ballot next month. One measure (301) allows a single retail marijuana store per 2,000 adult residents that would be located on the outskirts of town, and the other (300) would create an additional 5 percent sales tax levied on any recreational cannabis sold. The sales tax question would only be triggered by the passage of the recreational marijuana question.
The Woodwards told the Business Journal this summer that their attorney estimates the town could add $500,000 to its general fund annually via that tax. The Woodwards said legalization of recreational sales would allow any currently licensed and operating recreational grows in town the first right of refusal on the recreational license. The Woodwards are the only business operating under such a license.
Dino Salvatori owns the medical marijuana dispensary Palmer Lake Wellness, a business he purchased in 2012. The business has been operational since 2010. Salvatori leases space on the town’s east end, and he told the Business Journal earlier this year that, if recreational marijuana sales were made legal in town, he would pursue the single license.
Salvatori moved his business from the location the Woodwards currently use for their grow operation because he said the space was too small to sustain a recreational shop. He chose the town’s former bowling alley because he was planning for future recreational sales.
Several community members and Palmer Lake businesses have come out against the proposed law, to include Michael Maddox, former Palmer Lake mayor pro tem and current executive director of the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts.
Maddox told the Business Journal he was against legalizing recreational marijuana in the town the last time the issue made the ballot — and continues his opposition.
“I know it’s not a good thing,” he said, using the Netherlands and its rescheduling of high-potency cannabis in the same category as cocaine and Ecstasy in 2011 as an example.
The group Citizens Against the Legalization of Marijuana, or CALM, also has an anti-weed presence in Palmer Lake.
“Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana takes the position that federal laws against the use, cultivation and transportation of marijuana should be maintained and enforced and should not be relaxed or softened,” the group’s website said. “Cultivation, processing, transportation and use are illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
“Marijuana continues to be identified by Congress and the DEA as a Schedule I drug,” the site continues. “Schedule I drugs are classified as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment and a lack of accepted safety for use. After decades of study, the FDA continues to reaffirm that there is no medical benefit provided by the use of smoked marijuana and that, in fact, considerable harm can be caused by such use.”
The Woodwards argued no commercial operation would come close to generating the tax revenue recreational marijuana could provide in a short amount of time.
Melissa Woodward said, though, that she hopes marijuana doesn’t become the wedge issue it was two years ago.
“One of our biggest concerns going in, and people have brought it to our attention, is in 2014 this really divided the town. People got really aggressive on social media,” she said. “We’re from here. We don’t want a divided or hurt town. We’re trying to run a positive campaign. … We’re also hoping in the two years that have passed people maybe learned a little more about it and have some history to go on. They’ve seen what’s happened in other towns. Nothing’s gone to hell. … I’m hoping the voters keep that in mind.”
Maddox said Palmer Lake doesn’t need to be like other towns.
“They may be everywhere, but they don’t have to be here,” he said. “Denver may have adult bookstores, that doesn’t mean we need them here. … Every community, by law, can determine what they will allow in their community. Just because Denver might have strip clubs doesn’t mean we need them in Monument or Palmer Lake.”
Melissa said, with or without marijuana, Palmer Lake will always be a quaint, quiet town.
“I truly believe this will be amazing for Palmer Lake,” Melissa said. “It will always be a small mountain community, but maybe now we can be a small mountain community with nice roads and the money for fire mitigation.”