Marijuana vote might put council on spot

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Voters disagreed with Englewood’s current ban on the recreational marijuana industry, which was the subject of a non-binding question on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Now, city council members believe the issue will come before them in the near future.

Ballot Issue 2B asked voters whether to keep the ban. About 52 percent voted against the ban, according to the final tally by the Arapahoe County clerk’s office.

The existing ban on all aspects of the recreational marijuana industry in Englewood dates back to an April 15 city council meeting. At the same meeting, the council put the advisory question on the ballot.

The Nov. 8 count of votes showed 3,856 residents voted to get rid of the ban, while 3,587 voted to keep the ban in place.

The council placed 2B on the ballot as a non-binding question, which means the outcome doesn’t require council action. However, all seven council members expect the issue of whether or not to keep the ban will be on a future council meeting agenda.

“I expect the issue of the ban and ballot issue will come to the council,” Mayor Randy Penn said. “I personally don’t want to see the recreational marijuana industry in Englewood. But the people cast their votes on the ballot issue, and how can you go against the will of the people?”

The final count didn’t surprise Councilmember Joe Jefferson.

“I think the vote on Ballot Issue 2B reflects the fact about 64 percent of Englewood resident voted last year to approve legalization of recreational marijuana,” he said. “I guess those who felt recreational marijuana was right for the state also felt it was right for Englewood.”

He said he feels the council will consider the issue of whether or not to lift the ban on the recreational marijuana industry.

“If we do consider lifting the ban, I feel we have good regulations for medical marijuana outlets regarding distance requirements from facilities like schools as well as the required distance between the marijuana locations,” Jefferson said. “Those regulations should be a good place to start if the council does decide to approve allowing the recreational marijuana industry in Englewood.”

However, Councilmember Jill Wilson said she wasn’t sure how she felt about the outcome of the voting on Ballot Issue 2B.

“So many of the people I talked to still don’t want the recreational marijuana industry in our city,” she said. “While the vote on 2B shows a lot of people do want to see outlets here, I also have talked to people who didn’t understand the question and now say they voted the wrong way. So, I still am not sure where I will stand on this issue if it comes to a vote on council.”

Linda Olson, District 2 council representative, also said she wasn’t really surprised by the vote on ballot issue 2C.

“The people in my district don’t want to see the recreational marijuana stores in Englewood and I expect they voted that way on 2B,” she said. “But the count of the votes show there are those in the city who don’t feel that way.”

She said she wants to hear the comments from other members of the city council on the issue, but she added she feels it will be hard to ignore the vote of the people.

Councilmember Bob McCaslin said he still is not convinced the recreational marijuana industry should be allowed in Englewood.

“A lot of residents took time to vote on 2B and the final difference between yes and no was less than 300 votes. I don’t feel that is an overwhelming statement supporting allowing the recreational marijuana industry in our city,” he said. “My personal beliefs are the ban should remain in place. But, if the council takes it up, I hope we take time to discuss the issue thoroughly so we can make the decision that is best for Englewood.”

Newly elected Councilmember Steve Yates had similar comments.

“The city council put the advisory issue on the ballot to hear from the people,” he said. “The votes have been counted and, if the council decided to consider lifting the ban on recreational marijuana that is in place, I will do my best to make sure we take the time to decide what to do. Also, if the ban is repealed, I will do my best to see that the tax money generated from recreational marijuana be used to fund a drug education program for our residents.”

Rick Gillit, District 2 council representative, said he wants to see where the no votes came from, because everyone he has talked to in his district doesn’t want the recreational marijuana industry established in Englewood.

“I plan to adopt a wait-and-see attitude,” he said. “Part of the reason for that attitude is I understand there is some concern at the county that the voting won’t actually count because the ballot issue was incorrectly written. I know it was only an advisory question but I have a feeling the council will be asked to consider removing the ban on the recreational marijuana industry. I just don’t know right now where I stand on the issue because the majority of my constituents I have talked to still don’t want to see the ban lifted.”