Manitou business owner Tim Haas, who started the campaign known as “No Retail Marijuana in Manitou Springs,” said he estimates the group has gathered between 500 and 600 signatures on a petition for a ballot issue on whether to allow retail sales — twice the 287 required for inclusion on the November ballot.
“I’m almost certain we’ll have a vote in November to opt out,” said Manitou City Administrator Jack Benson.
But it’s hard to predict how a vote would turn out six months or more after two approved pot shops will be allowed to open, and any obvious benefits or detriments could sway residents either way.
Benson said the town could see some revenue stream from marijuana by May, depending on if and when the two shops open. Facing that uncertainty, the city did not include pot tax revenue estimates in the 2014 budget. In that way, and others, it’s very much a financial wait-and-see situation — weed is a wild card.
“From a business perspective, it is very troubling to me,” said Haas, who owns the Manitou Outpost, Mountain High Sportswear, Mountain High Gallery and Gift, and the Garden of the Gods Trading Post. “There is no doubt that there will be an impact on business.”
The only shops eligible to be licensed to sell retail marijuana under state law and with Manitou’s approval are expected to open next month or early May.
According to regulations, only Maggie’s Farm (approved last fall to open another of its medical marijuana dispensaries in Manitou) and Absolute Manitou Wellness Center at 2 Manitou Ave. (the only operating medical marijuana clinic in town) could apply to sell retail until this summer.
The approved zone for the shops is in the commercial district on the eastern portion of the 5,200-population city.
Applications to dispense retail marijuana must be submitted to the state, and include a background investigation, $500 in application fees and between $3,500 and $14,000 in licensing costs. After the business owner has applied for state licensure, he or she must apply to Manitou (including $300 for permits and an annual fee of $5,000) and work with the planning commission to prepare for City Council approval.
The primary points of contention for “No Retail Marijuana” include fearing its impact on the family-friendly town and the children in it, and Haas’ concern over how that might affect business.
“Our concern again is that the perception of those considering coming to this area may change,” Haas said. “We’ve worked hard for a number of years to market our community as family-friendly … and my fear is that, right or wrong, perception is more important than reality.”
Haas said because Amendment 64 — legalizing retail marijuana and possession — passed in Manitou with 67 percent voter approval in 2012 doesn’t mean the town should have retail businesses.
“I really don’t agree with that interpretation of the vote,” he said.
While tax revenues from retail marijuana may benefit the city, Haas says the detriment to other industries could be devastating for the tiny tourist town.
Besides a fairly strong band of anti-pot advocates in Manitou, others are either supportive of or apathetic to the plight of City Council. Farley McDonough, who owns Adam’s Mountain Café, said proximity to pot shops never crossed her mind in choosing to relocate from downtown to the east end of the town.
“I listened to the arguments, but ultimately we had to move no matter what was happening in the East End,” she said.
She said she sees both the positive and the negative implications retail marijuana might have for local small businesses, but ultimately views it as change that the community should embrace. McDonough said it may be a convenient way to fund important community projects and infrastructure upgrades essential to the town’s future in a flood zone.
“There will be opportunities to invest that revenue back into Manitou,” she said. “Some think it will detract visiting families from coming to Manitou, but I don’t anticipate that at all.”
“For years we have had a pancake special called the ‘Stoner Cake,’ ” she said. “I expect sales of that item to go up just for novelty alone.”