Medical marijuana dispensary ban in El Paso County: Fighting 1A in court and at polls
Update: A judge has rejected a lawsuit over a medical marijuana business ban in El Paso County. Read about the development in this post: "Medical marijuana dispensary ban: El Paso vote to count, but could passage cost county millions?" Then look below to learn more about the fight against County Question 1A.
Original item, 10:07 a.m. October 27: According to attorney Jessica Corry, a hearing is set for today in a lawsuit against a medical marijuana dispensary ban ballot measure in El Paso County. But in case the suit fails, opponents of County Question 1A are moving ahead with their campaign, including an event today presenting arguments for a "no" vote.
Michael Elliott, who manages a campaign organization dubbed Citizens for Safer Communities, says the noon event at Penrose Library in Colorado Springs (get details below) will hit on three central themes: protecting patient rights, saving jobs and protecting the local economy, and keeping the medical marijuana industry highly regulated and out of neighborhoods. He feels this last assertion strikes home even with people not naturally sympathetic to the issue.
"If we ban medical marijuana centers, we're taking it from a regulated, secure model and pushing it into a lightly regulated, non-secure caregiver model that's going to be in our neighborhoods next to our schools, next to our homes," he says. "We're going to see an increase in the number of home invasions and fires, because people may be overdoing their electricity, and it will be a lot more expensive for law enforcement to keep track of.
"People are responding well to the argument that even if you're against medical marijuana, don't ban the centers," he continues. "Nobody wants to have people dealing medical marijuana in the neighborhoods. We all want to know where it is, and we want it to be regulated, secure and safe. Everyone can agree on that, whether they're patients or people who don't like medical marijuana."
Another boost for the No on 1A camp, Elliott believes, was a recent Colorado Springs Gazette report revealing that the fiscally beleaguered Springs is collecting $50,000 in revenue from MMJ every month. In his view, this fact underlines what's gained by allowing dispensaries in the county as a whole -- and what would be lost if they suddenly disappear.
Photo by Robert Fisher
"We're talking about thousands of people employed as a result of this industry in El Paso County," he maintains. "If we were to ban medical marijuana businesses, hundreds of people would be out of work -- and imagine what all those vacant properties would do to local land values. And putting the medical marijuana industry out of business won't just affect the medical marijuana business. It's going to affect construction workers, engineers, plumbers, accountants, lawyers. The ripple effect is incredible, because this is one of the few industries where stuff is happening in this horrible recession."
How popular have these pitches been? Elliott cites poll numbers published last week by the Colorado Springs Independent, which show 1A losing by a 42-39 percent margin. Problem is, almost 17 percent of respondents remain undecided -- so Elliott's forces are manning phone banks and even visiting some households door to door to try to firm up opposition to the measure. As for advertising, Elliott is unaware if anti-1A television commercials assembled by Altitude Organic Medicine's Brian Cook have appeared on the local airwaves, although they're featured on the Citizens for Safer Communities website. But a series of radio spots ran around the time early voting got underway, with more a possibility.
Given all this activity, Elliott says, "I'm cautiously optimistic" that 1A will be defeated at the ballot box -- if a judge doesn't prevent it from even being considered.
Page down to read the Citizens for Safer Communities release about today's event: