McKibbin’s Scribblin’s: Saying no to pot stores in Rifle not right
One of the cornerstones in the long history and strength of the U.S. economy is the opportunity and freedom to work in whatever profession we choose.
And the freedom to choose to own and operate whatever business – legal business – we choose, as we strive for success and do our small part to keep the economic engine running.
Yet part of me can’t help thinking Rifle City Council violated that principal when they decided to ban retail marijuana stores, as you read in today’s Citizen Telegram.
As I said a few weeks ago in this space, I voted against Amendment 64 to the Colorado constitution that legalized the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults for their own, personal use. That same amendment was worded to allow each local government in the state to go against the wishes of the majority of state voters, as it turned out. I wonder why the amendment’s authors decided to include such an obvious way for many parts of the state to overrule what a majority of their fellow voters said in that election. Doesn’t that seem counter to what the amendment’s authors would want, and to the old adage of majority rules?
At any rate, Rifle City Council can factually say they are following the wishes of local voters who opposed the amendment by a thin, nine-vote margin. Again, I was one of those who voted against it. But is that very slim majority a mandate from voters? And I didn’t hear any discussion among councilmembers about the option of putting the retail sales question to local voters in 2014, which the amendment also allows.
After listening to each councilmember state their beliefs about the controversial issue, I couldn’t help thinking of the words a letter to the editor author used a few weeks back. Something to the affect of, “We didn’t elect you to be our moral police.”
Rifle’s five medical marijuana businesses will likely soon pull up stakes and try to find a town or county that allows them to make the switch to retail sales. Many local residents will say good riddance, but I wish them all best of luck. I’ve talked to a few of these store owners and they seem like upstanding businesspeople, raising their families and trying to get by. Just like you and me.
And you know how fragile – maybe depressed? – the Rifle economy has been. Can the city afford to tell five businesses that pay city sales tax they don’t want their sales tax revenue? Granted, it’s not a huge amount, but as my parents always said, every little bit helps.
It just seemed, from watching and listening to what they said, most city council members felt their opposition to seeing marijuana sold legally in Rifle was more important than helping five local businesses stay in Rifle.
City Councilman Jonathan Rice said it very well: Government should stay out of the way of private businesses.
Unlike Rice, though, I’m not sure this should have been an exception to that practice.
Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.
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