To start Colorado Springs City Council’s debate this week about whether to allow retail sales of recreational marijuana, Mayor Steve Bach took advantage of his position to go first.
Everyone knew which side the mayor would take, and he soon confirmed his opt-out feelings, bluntly calling the idea of allowing retail (not medical) marijuana sales a “job killer.”
Aside from the fact that the city’s voters did approve Amendment 64 last November, we can see some reasons for not being fully supportive, such as waiting to approve retail marijuana inside the city until the state can more effectively monitor and audit medical marijuana centers.
Another issue that must be resolved is allowing marijuana businesses to use banks, which probably means federal legislation. First, though, it also means downgrading marijuana’s status on the national Schedule 1 of controlled substances, taking it out of the group that also includes cocaine, heroin and meth.
When those two hurdles are cleared, we’ll probably soon have retail marijuana coast to coast. Until then, we’ll just have to see whether another ballot issue comes forward to force it on local governments, and in cases such as Colorado Springs, whether legalized possession of marijuana (but driving to Manitou Springs or elsewhere to buy it) will suffice.
But let’s go back to Mayor Bach’s opening statement before City Council on Tuesday, which went broader than just retail marijuana. He addressed the fact that other governments in the region — notably Fountain, Woodland Park, Green Mountain Falls and El Paso County (for unincorporated areas) — also have opted out of retail sales.
“We need to cooperate with our neighbors,” he continued. “You’ve talked about a regional solution for stormwater, so we can stand with our neighbors on this.”
Those two sentences are worth remembering, especially Bach’s reference to the serious need for more regional cooperation.
Simply put, that hasn’t been happening, with stormwater as the most obvious case in point. Despite a growing alarm that the city and county aren’t addressing their stormwater and drainage needs, and despite the county’s outspoken desire to support working toward a regional solution, the mayor so far has pushed for the city approaching the problem separately.
We’re hearing now that, despite several credible cost estimates of regional stormwater needs ranging from $750 million to $900 million, the city has been trying to influence its latest engineering analysis to produce lower numbers. Regardless, Bach has dropped a few hints that he might come to the voters at some point with a ballot issue that would cover a variety of needs, surely starting with stormwater.
But that won’t work, and it certainly won’t satisfy Pueblo County (which still could hold us legally accountable) on the other end of Fountain Creek, unless we can come up with a wide-ranging stormwater proposal that covers all of El Paso County, not just the city.
What has to happen is exactly what Bach said: “We need to cooperate with our neighbors.”
Not just on the subject of retail marijuana, and also not just on stormwater, but in every conceivable way — from firefighting to transportation.
We’ll remember your words and your message, Mayor Bach. Because they’re absolutely essential.