As you saw on the front page of this Business Journal, we have a story about the latest round of public discussion regarding the possible impact of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado.
At the annual Fort Carson town hall last week, and a Colorado Springs City Council meeting before that, various speakers hammered away on two themes that have become familiar lately.
One, they’re saying, the city must not allow retail sales of marijuana, and the mere passage of Amendment 64 will have lasting negative impacts because companies will not want to move here if their employees will have easy access to marijuana.
Two, the detractors insist recreational marijuana will also threaten the local military presence, with some saying that we likely could lose any or all of our installations and active-duty personnel.
Those dire concerns, coming from retired generals and others with much local credibility, were reported dutifully by local media. Nobody else followed up, but we did. Reporter Amy Gillentine made calls from coast to coast, trying to confirm those public statements. John Hazlehurst took advantage of a media event, eliciting comments from defense contractors.
The results, as reported in our story, tell a different view. A high-level Pentagon spokesman states firmly that the Department of Defense will not make any moves to take personnel or bases out of Colorado because of Amendment 64.
That response sends an added message: If the upcoming reshuffle of military units, based on post-war and budget-cut reductions, does mean up to 8,000 fewer soldiers at Fort Carson, it’s the sole result of common-sense decisions, not an effort to “punish” Colorado for approving recreational marijuana.
In fact, the new Fort Carson commander, Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, told the town hall that the Army could decide to have 3,000 more troops stationed here, which doesn’t sound at all like an anti-Amendment 64 backlash.
Just as enlightening is our discovery that nobody has voiced these concerns about bad ramifications from legalizing marijuana in Washington state. There, a short drive from Seattle, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has 25,000 military and civilians, with nearly 30,000 more dependents living on or off base. That state also has many Navy-Marine Corps and Coast Guard operations, adding up to more than 65,000 active and reserve-duty military (compared to Colorado’s 50,000). Yet, we’re told, not one word has been said about recreational marijuana being a threat to the military presence in Washington state.
Some might suggest that what we’ve been hearing on this end amounts to over-reacting. But that conclusion is too easily drawn. In truth, what we’re seeing here is a legitimate, deep concern for how military budget cuts will hurt Colorado Springs, regardless of Amendment 64’s impact.
If the end result will be reductions across the entire military, it’s a smart assumption that we’ll share in that pain.
But can we honestly say recreational marijuana, approved by 55 percent of this state’s voters, is the direct cause for any subsequent military cuts in Colorado Springs? Likewise, is Amendment 64 really scaring off companies from moving to Colorado and creating a negative economic impact that we’re not hearing about from anywhere else on the Front Range?
From our view, the answer to those questions is no.