Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jun 2016
Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Pueblo Chieftain
Author: Anthony A. Mestas


Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo submitted more than the required amount 
of signed petitions to both the City Clerk and the Pueblo County 
Clerk and Recorder Thursday to place initiatives on the November 
ballot that would eliminate commercialized marijuana in the city and 
the county.

The anti-pot group, which has been collecting signatures over the 
last eight weeks, turned in 4,476 signatures to the city - 2,541 
petitions more than the required amount - to City Clerk Gina Dutcher. 
Dutcher's staff counted the signatures Thursday. The signatures were 
signed on 177 petition sections.

Also, Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo officials estimated that they 
submitted more than 9,000 signatures to the county; 5,454 valid 
signatures are required to place the county ban on the November ballot.

County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz did not provide an 
official tally of signatures Thursday. The group turned in 275 
petition sections to the county.

The clerks' offices have 30 days to decide if there are enough valid 
signatures to place the measures on the ballot.

"We are hoping that the voters will come out in November and they 
will see the work that this community has done and they will use it 
as an opportunity for civic betterment to see the Democratic process 
in play," said Pueblo attorney Daniel Oldenburg, who represents the 
anti-pot group.

Oldenburg and volunteers who helped with the petition effort 
submitted the petitions at City Hall and at the Pueblo County Elections Office.

Charlene Graham, chair of the anti-pot group, said the petition 
campaign has been a true effort by citizens in Pueblo County.

"We had over 100 people carrying petitions and they just worked very 
hard in spite of wind, rain, protesters and getting thrown out of 
places because of protesters," Graham said.

Growing Pueblo's Future, a pro-pot organization, said in a statement 
that the number of petitions collected are not enough based on new state law.

"The state Legislature recently passed new legislation requiring 15 
percent of all registered voters as a signature requirement for this 
type of issue. Voters were promised to regulate marijuana like 
alcohol and this 15 percent threshold is the same percentage needed 
to initiate a prohibition on alcohol sales," said Kyle Forti, a 
spokesman for Growing Pueblo's Future.

"Judging by the number the proponents turned in, they are far short 
of that 15 percent threshold."

There is litigation pending to determine if the proper legal process 
has been followed and whether the correct number of petition 
signatures have been submitted here.

A hearing is scheduled in the case Monday in Pueblo.

"Growing Pueblo's Future will keep working to ensure the process is 
fair, follows the intent of the law, and respects the will of the 
voters who have already overwhelmingly spoken on this issue when they 
voted for Amendment 64 and legalized retail cannabis just a few short 
years ago," Forti said.

Oldenburg agreed that Colorado did legalize marijuana through 
Amendment 64, but the amendment also contains an opt-out clause in it.

"That allows communities to opt out and have the retail and marijuana 
industry not operate in their community," Oldenburg said.

"We are asking for a vote on the opt-out. We never got that vote and 
so, by law, we are allowed to bring a citizens' initiative for a 
proposed ordinance to ban retail marijuana in Pueblo County."

Forti said Growing Pueblo's Future is "confident that voters will 
again side with thousands of Pueblo jobs, millions in local tax 
revenue and millions more in community investment."

Oldenburg said the benefits that the marijuana industry has brought 
to Pueblo are outweighed by problems that he feels the county has encountered.

"Tax revenue at what cost? At what cost to our community, to our 
youth, to our health care system?" he asked.

Graham said that Pueblo County Commissioners Sal Pace, Terry Hart and 
Liane "Buffie" McFadyen opened the doors to everyone and everything 
concerning retail marijuana.

"It has changed our community and we are upset about that," Graham 
said. "It's time to be heard. I definitely see a change."

Pace said if the petition collectors have collected enough 
signatures, he welcomes the vote.

"The citizens of Pueblo will speak loud and clear what their position 
is on licensed and regulated stores, grows and infused product 
manufacturers operating in Pueblo County," Pace said.

"Seeing that the voters passed Amendment 64 by a larger margin in 
Pueblo than statewide, I suspect that the voters will side with 
keeping the hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic 
investment and tax revenue. But from my perspective as a 
policy-maker, we will simply be following the will of the majority 
after the vote is taken. Again."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom