Breckenridge voters to decide marijuana decriminalization
BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado – Breckenridge voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for adults over 21, after town council decided Tuesday against enacting the citizens’ initiative.”I’m uncomfortable as a council member creating an ordinance that puts us at odds with the state and federal government without the public weighing in on it,” Councilman Peter Joyce said at the meeting. The initiative came before council after reform group Sensible Breckenridge submitted nearly 700 valid petition signatures supporting decriminalization. The ordinance would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana as well as paraphernalia. “You’ve got a mandate here,” Breckenridge attorney and reform group chair Sean McAllister said, adding that the mountain region has “probably the highest support of (marijuana decriminalization) anywhere in the state.”In 2006, 72 percent of Breckenridge voters supported the unsuccessful Amendment 44, which had language similar to the town initiative but applied to the entire state. Town manager Tim Gagen said that putting the item on a coordinated ballot with Summit County on Nov. 3 will cost the town up to $2,000.McAllister on Tuesday compared the marijuana initiative with another recent petition – the mandatory “defensible space” firebreak ordinance – which council members repealed rather than take to the polls, citing doubts it would stand. The firebreak petition was certified with only 381 signatures – though 333 were needed relative to the 500 the marijuana initiative needed.He said that the impact of possession on one’s criminal record can affect job opportunities and student loans, and that there are about 13,000 arrests per year in Colorado for simple possession.”This is not about encouraging use,” McAllister said, adding that his stepdaughter was already exposed to it in middle school. “The current system has already failed children.”He said his message has always been that marijuana is not the way “to be successful in this world.”Councilman Dave Rossi on Tuesday said that “a very strong case can be made” for decriminalization, but that it would be better if the changes were coming from the federal or state governments.Councilman Eric Mamula said the local issue is one of information, and that all he’s heard from is McAllister and Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman, who is against the ordinance. Taking the matter to the polls allows for more discourse before the decision.”I have spent zero time thinking about marijuana since the day I moved to Breckenridge,” Mamula said.Councilwoman Jen McAtamney said the ordinance would cause a “big change” in terms of how marijuana is viewed in the community. She added that she’s considering the impact such an ordinance could have on her children.”I have serious concerns about the message that would be sending,” she said. McAllister said he wasn’t disappointed with council’s decision, and that there will be some campaigning to get voters to the polls this November.”We believe if a sufficient amount of voters get out, there’s no way we can lose this,” he said. email@example.com.
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Though it won’t bring major changes for most Garfield County businesses, local public health officials were notified Thursday that the county will move to the less-restrictive Level Blue, effective first thing Friday.