ALAMOSA — After hearing from 15 Alamosa residents urging them to pass the ordinance and one against it, the Alamosa city council on Wednesday night unanimously approved an ordinance permanently prohibiting marijuana consumption clubs in the city limits.
The city had a temporary ban on the clubs, pending the outcome of ballot questions seeking medical and retail marijuana sales in the city limits, measures that were both defeated in November.
Alamosa city councilors said the residents had given them clear direction both in the election outcome and during Wednesday’s public hearing to pass the prohibition ordinance.
“The citizens have spoken on it. It was clear and concise in the election,” said Councilman Michael Carson.
Councilman David Broyles said the overwhelming defeat of marijuana issues in the November election was a mandate for the city council.
“We are government leaders in this city. Let’s take a leadership role,” he said. “We have to take a stand.”
Councilor Kristina Daniel said the former moratorium was not meant to be permanent, so the council had to decide on a more permanent action, and it was clear what action the citizens wanted the council to take.
Councilman Jan Vigil said one of the concerns he had with marijuana consumption clubs was the potential for people who had gotten high at the club then driving home and posing a danger on the road because they would not have as fast a reaction time.
He added that he appreciated the passion of those who spoke Wednesday evening and hoped they would have the same passion against opioids, “because that’s killing people.”
Vigil said he did not agree with the characterization of people who use marijuana as being on the fringe of society or unprofessional or losers.
Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley said she also did not judge people who used marijuana. She said, however, that it was clear from those who showed up for the public hearing and those who voted in the election that the majority of city residents do not want marijuana businesses in the community.
Councilman Charles Griego said regarding marijuana and other drug use, “I am totally against it.”
Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman told the audience, “Your voices really do matter … The people have spoken … Your voices have been heard.”
Overwhelming pot club opposition
Leon Gibson said, “I don’t want marijuana around in any way, shape or form.” He said it might be legal, but that doesn’t make it good.
Nancy Gibson said her child became an addict, “and it all began with marijuana. Marijuana is the gateway drug.”
John Deltondo said he saw no benefit with marijuana, and if people needed it medically, it should be prescribed.
Rob Oringdulph said the election gave a clear mandate to the city council that citizens do not want marijuana whether medical or recreational in the city, which also means residents do not want consumption clubs here either. He said that serving on the tourism and marketing board, he saw no benefit to the community from these types of businesses.
Terry Wiley said he has educated himself about marijuana and attended symposiums on the subject. One of the speakers was the district attorney in Colorado Springs who said marijuana is a gateway homicide drug in that city with many of the homicides related to the drug’s usage.
Martin Sowards said marijuana consumption clubs are not beneficial, and he was opposed to the city allowing them.
“The citizens of Alamosa have spoken. I don’t think we need to hash this out anymore.”
Ted Curtis said anyone who had someone in their lives who was addicted to marijuana would know this is an addiction “you don’t want to get close to … it will affect your life forever.”
Vincent Rogers said someone in his family had become addicted to marijuana, and it affected the whole family.
“It has no place in our community,” he said.
Terry Smith said he was extremely concerned about youth and drugs. Young people are dying from drugs all the time here, he said.
“I applaud city council for standing up to this,” he said.
Keith Vance said marijuana use leads to laziness and lack of ambition. He said he had a close family friend who “sat around and got high for two years,” and her “grades went to pot,” and she almost flunked out of college, but she finally woke up to the fact that smoking pot was getting her nowhere.
Faye Gibson said those who think marijuana is great should visit some rehab centers. She said she has seen what damage it can do.
Geri Curtis worked for human services for more than 40 years. “I have seen the effects, the damaging effects of marijuana on families and individuals,” she said. “It just destroys their lives.”
Robert Bacon said he has been involved with scouts for many years, and he promotes drug-free “highs” for youth. “We need to create an environment to help people get high through fun things in life,” he said.
Clarence Kooiman said, “I think we need to keep this community clean.”
He added that the community had sent the message it did not want marijuana businesses here, “and I think we have heard again tonight the community still doesn’t want it.”
Sheryl Bacon, a nurse practitioner, specifically raised the concern of people driving after getting high at these clubs. She added that allowing these clubs would be “stair stepping” to other uses, just like when voters agreed to legalize marijuana on the argument that people would only use it for their personal use in their own homes.
She added that the marijuana today is not the same marijuana as the 1960’s and 1970’s but is 14-20 times stronger. She added that brains are still developing until age 25, and marijuana use at that age would not be beneficial to that development.
Shanna Hobbs, who promoted the marijuana ballot initiatives, said marijuana consumption clubs are not places where there is alcohol or violence and have not caused problems in Denver and Colorado Springs where they are allowed.
She added that she knew there was a petition drive for a ballot issue prohibiting consumption clubs, and she urged the council to leave the temporary moratorium in place and let those seeking a ballot question go through the effort she and others had done to place issues on the ballot to let the voters decide.
She said the vote on the recreational and medical issues was not a mandate to ban consumption clubs.
She also urged those who did not want to use marijuana not to use it but not to keep other people from exercising their rights to use it.