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Manitou officials talk pot sales at media roundtable

Published: May 14, 2014, 9:38 am, by Matt Steiner

PotMarijuana shared center stage with flash flood mitigation and awareness Tuesday at the Manitou Springs Media Roundtable.

Click here to read an article about Manitou Springs’ ongoing flood mitigation

The town’s police Chief Joe Ribeiro and Mayor Marc Snyder each chimed in on recreational pot sales just a week after the city council voted 6-1 in favor of a conditional use permit for El Paso County’s first recreational marijuana store.

Maggie’s Farm owner Bill Conkling, the use permit applicant, said May 6 that he just needs to secure state and local licenses — a process he expects to take about 45 days — before opening the doors to customers at his 141 Manitou Ave. location Snyder echoed Conkling’s time-frame estimate, saying Manitou Springs should have an open pot shop “sometime prior to July 1.”

Ribeiro commended council Tuesday for the way it handled the turmoil-filled question of whether to have pot sales in the town of about 5,000 people. The council put a moratorium on allowing recreational sales in September. And several community meetings and work sessions were held before sales were made legal in Manitou in late January.

“Council has given this great thought,” Ribeiro said.

The chief pointed to an educational approach that the city of Manitou Springs has placed at the center of its long-term recreational marijuana plan. Snyder echoed Ribeiro, saying that Manitou will not include any sales tax revenues from marijuana in its 2014 budget, but will keep the money “segregated” for education and mitigation of “negative effects.”

Ribeiro, who also serves as the town’s emergency manager,  said the police department is using a “no tolerance” approach when people attempt to use marijuana “on the streets” or in other public places.

“Legal does not mean doing it anytime and anywhere you want to,” he said, noting that the crackdown began shortly after Colorado Constitutional Amendment 64 legalized personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in late 2012.

The chief on Tuesday reaffirmed his concern of people driving under the influence of marijuana.

The police department has already trained eight officers to determine during sobriety checks if drivers have used alcohol, marijuana or both . Ribeiro said the goal is to have the entire department similarly trained and admitted that determining if a driver has been using pot and driving is not as black-and-white as pinpointing drunk drivers with a breath test. He said more involved blood tests are needed to determine if a driver is stoned.

Glenn Davis, the highway safety manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said in a recent New York Times article that survey’s have been done and many people don’t understand that DUI laws apply to marijuana. He said some think they “drive better while high.”

Mayor Snyder said a big part of the town’s “educational approach” will focus on teaching kids dangers of using marijuana and educating parents and other adults about the laws and responsibilities associated with having recreation pot sales in their community.

“This is for people 21-and-up only,” he said.