The Pueblo West View

Recreational pot shops: Pueblo voters said yes, council says no

It’s a statistical fact that a majority of Pueblo city voters — 60 percent — approved Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana.

Even so, there is a solid majority of four “no” votes on City Council when it comes to retail stores in the city.

“I really don’t want that,” said Councilman Chris Nicoll. “My feeling is there is enough retail marijuana available in (Pueblo County) to satisfy city voters who wanted it. If it were solely up to me, I’d leave it that way.”

Still, Nicoll would like a specific question on the November ballot asking if retail stores should be allowed in very limited areas of the city. But he sees that as a pre-emptive strike.

Without a tight restrictive zoning plan, pro-marijuana voters could force a much broader retail policy on council, he said.

Council President Sandy Daff also doesn’t want retail stores in the city. She told the audience at Monday’s council meeting the calls she’s getting are nearly all opposed.

Councilman Chris Kaufman takes the economic development angle. He argues that retail pot stores in the city will hurt Pueblo’s image and ability to attract major employers. He also predicts retail marijuana will be a burden to law enforcement.

“Our police are already burdened now with increasing calls for service,” he said.

And Councilwoman Eva Montoya, a retired teacher, is just flat opposed to legalized marijuana.

“We used to be called Pew-town,” she told council Monday. “Now we’re being called Pot-town.”

All of which leaves the other three council members — Steve Nawrocki, Ed Brown and Ami Nawrocki — at a loss. Especially because Kaufman and Daff are willing to license marijuana growing and product-manufacturing in the city. Just no retail stores.

That’s a distinction Steve Nawrocki finds artificial.

“So a majority of council is willing to let businesses grow marijuana in the city and put it in brownies or whatever, but wouldn’t let Pueblo residents buy it?” he asked, only half-jokingly.

While Nicoll prefers to let city residents go out to the county stores to buy pot, Ami Nawrocki sees that as council ignoring its own constituents.

“These are legal businesses, approved by voters,” she said. “I think the public has spoken on this issue and it’s up to council to supply the leadership.”

Which is how Brown sees it, too. He has questioned why council would turn its back on a source of revenue when the city has faced budget cuts for several years running.

But that’s why Daff and Kaufman are willing to look at licensing nonretail pot businesses, like growers. To butcher a cliche, they could have their pot revenue without having to eat it, so to speak.

“I’m intrigued at the potential of those businesses,” Kaufman said.

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The Pueblo West View