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City Decides Yea and Nay on Medical Marijuana Ballot Questions

By: Jason Aubry Email
By: Jason Aubry Email

Whether or not to tax medical marijuana, will be decided by citizens of Pueblo this fall.

Pueblo City Council voted six to one to place the question on the November general election ballot Monday night. Another ballot question that would have given the people a chance to ban dispensaries in the city failed to make passed the council, failing with a four to three vote.

Some members of the city council were not shy in expressing their distaste for medical marijuana. Councilwoman Vera Ortegon went as far as to insinuate that it wasn't medicine at all, in her opinion. Other council members voiced their opinion over the ballot issue to ban dispensaries as well.

Councilwoman Judy Weaver cited several reasons she was opposed to dispensaries in the city, but unlike Ortegon focused on the fact that Pueblo voters were against Amendment 20, back in 1999, to what she calls an overwhelming majority (54 percent against). Weaver says, voters in Pueblo didn't want it then and should be allowed to decide if they want it now.

Councilmen Leroy Garcia didn't agree. Garcia pointed out, the council members were elected by the people to handle the difficult decisions. City Council President Larry Atencio also made no attempt to hide his support for medical marijuana, and went so far as to say he is likely the most liberal member of the council on this issue.

It took more than an hour for several speakers both for and against the measure to speak their peace, and for members of council to put on record their feelings about the issue. The final vote in regards to placing the question of banning medical marijuana dispensaries on the November ballot came down three in favor (Kaufman, Weaver, Ortegon) and four against (Atencio, Garcia, Nawrocki, and Aguilera).

Following the failed attempt to place the banning question on the ballot, the council immediately took up the other ballot question. Several members of the council would like to add an additional 4.3 percent sales tax to medical marijuana and paraphernalia associated with it.

Unlike the decision to whether or not to ban dispensaries, the measure would be a tax and therefore must go to a public vote in order to take effect. While still a contentious issue, the vote to place the sales tax measure on the fall ballot took far less time. The final tally was six for and one against. The lone holdout was Councilman Kaufman who said his vote was on principle. He pointed out, other prescription medicine is not taxed by the city and so medical marijuana should likewise be tax-free.

After the dust settled, Councilwoman Weaver talked to KKTV. She says, the battle to put the question of banning dispensaries in Pueblo is not over. And while she says she may be too busy to lead the petitioning charge herself, she hopes someone else will. She also mentioned she would be willing to provide them with whatever information they needed. However, time is running out to get the roughly 2,000 petitioned names in.

Meanwhile, Councilman Garcia expects to see more final drafts of medical marijuana related ordinances presented to city council over the next few months.


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