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Gas and Grass is not a win-win for the Westside

By Don Knight, Colorado Springs City Councilmember

       A military veteran and defense industry employee, Don Knight represents District 1, which covers the city's northwest area. This includes the Westside roughly north of Uintah Street and (west of 31st) the streets north of Colorado Avenue.

      
District 1 City Councilmember Don Knight.
Courtesy photo
I must disagree with a Westside Pioneer article's headline recently, stating that the new Gas and Grass station planned for 17th and Uintah is a “win-win” for Westside medical marijuana patients who drive. With approximately 115 medical marijuana shops already in our city, the addition of another facility at 17th and Uintah is not going to improve access to medical marijuana.
       And how many Westsiders were asked if they wanted a medical marijuana shop in their neighborhood? None!
       Due to current city land-use laws, medical marijuana shops and marijuana social clubs are entitled to more rights than neighborhood residents or even liquor stores. If a liquor store or bar wanted to open in your neighborhood, it must do a “needs and desires” survey of its proposed neighborhoods and then stay at least 200 feet away from any residential area.
       Not so for the marijuana industry. When a marijuana establishment wants to open on the other side of your fence, there is no survey requirement, nor any setbacks in place. You, as a resident of that neighborhood, do not even get an open comment period or have the right to appeal.
       However, last year, when a marijuana social club was told to close, its owners were entitled to, and used, the appeal process to eventually win the right to stay open. This city planning process is both unbalanced and unjust - not only to Westsiders, but all residents of Colorado Springs.
       The Gas and Grass also fails as a win-win as we should not allow mixing marijuana sales with other businesses. Even though these businesses bring in about $1.5 million annually in sales tax, our economy is comprised of approximately 45 percent military. The potential loss of tens of millions in sales tax revenue from sequestration and Base Realignments and Closures (BRAC) more than offsets anything the marijuana industry could bring in.
       As we compete against Omaha, N.E.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Killeen, Texas, for keeping our current space, missile defense and army missions here in Colorado Springs, rest assured their civic leaders are walking the halls of Congress and the Pentagon touting how these missions should move to their towns - towns without marijuana.
       For the aforementioned reasons, I sponsored six-month moratoriums (approved by City Council vote) of both new marijuana social clubs and medical marijuana dispensaries. I believe these moratoriums will give us the opportunity to review city codes and to create processes that are fair for all parties involved.

       Editor's note: Councilmember Knight's point that the city is not required to notify neighborhoods regarding planned MMJ dispensaries was addressed in a Westside Pioneer news article in April of this year. Headlined “3rd MMJ dispensary proposed in Old Colorado City; no option for public comment,” the article can be found at this link.

(Posted 10/26/15; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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