Manitou Springs is a mountainous enclave of 5,000 souls, most of them liberal folks. Last November, voters approved Colorado’s Amendment 64 by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, which suggests the city is already overrun with weed. And if there is weed in Manitou Springs, it most likely didn’t come from the city’s lone medical marijuana dispensary, which sits just east of the arch that bears the city’s name.
As local media outlets broke the news that Colorado Springs had banned retail sales of cannabis, public attention immediately shifted towards Manitou. Many people tweeted and posted on social media sites that Manitou would get right what Colorado Springs got wrong. Even reporters jumped into the fray, suggesting Manitou’s streets would be paved with greenbacks bought from weed.
Last week, Snyder reiterated his contention the city needed to be wary of being overrun by pot shops. In a story the Gazette published with Snyder’s updated remarks, it noted, “On average, Manitou has a 2 percent retail space vacancy rate.”
According to Manitou’s medical marijuana dispensary licensing/code enforcement rules, no stores selling cannabis are allowed downtown. Any business that sells cannabis must be located within commercial zones placed around the city, mainly along Colorado Avenue. Additionally, many of the commercial areas are not developed or are in disrepair.
With low retail space available in the city, where will the pot shops go? And how many pot shops could exist without Snyder pushing for a limit?
Manitou Springs is probably too small to hold more than a dozen pot shops under existing regulations. Any future pot shops will probably be small operations serving small groups of clients so as not to attract too much attention from federal prosecutors. There’s also the proximity issues: pot shops cannot be located too closely to one another, schools, neighborhoods, and so on.
Then there’s the last little bit of the puzzle: current medical marijuana dispensary licensing regulations require businesses and individuals apply through the city council. That means Snyder and the city council cast the final approval (or rejection) of any person or business attempting to open a dispensary (or pot shop) in Manitou Springs.
If Manitou Springs were to be overrun or turned into a “mecca for marijuana,” it would be solely at the discretion of Snyder and the city council. The city, therefore, stands no chance of being overrun by anything, except, well … pay-to-park signs.