A district court judge has thrown out a voter-backed measure legalizing recreational marijuana sales in Lamar, ruling that the city erred in adding two cannabis-related measures to the November ballot.
Prowers County District Court Judge Mike Davidson last week invalidated the results of the marijuana ballot initiatives because the city did not receive enough signatures to meet the city charter’s threshold to get them legally placed on the 2021 ballot. One of the measures legalized cannabis sales while the other allowed the small town in southeastern Colorado to tax it.
The ruling was a victory for Lamar resident Wanda Rohlman, who sued the city in January saying she had been “harmed by the failure of city officials” when they failed to follow the rules set by the city’s charter that require them to collect signatures equivalent to at least 15% of the votes cast in the previous election, the court documents stated.
Rohlman nor her attorney could be reached by a Colorado Sun reporter Thursday. According to court documents, Rohlman attended city council meetings prior to the election but did not fully understand what council members were talking about. She did not ask city council members any questions and did not file a protest of the clerk’s certification of the petition, the documents stated.
Making the sale of cannabis legal would “cause a change to the very complexion of Lamar,” Rohlman wrote in a court document, raising concerns that it could lead to an increase in cannabis-related car accidents and use by young people.
City Clerk Linda Williams, who helped SOCO Rocks, Inc. in the petition process, told the group they were only required to collect 221 signatures, which represented 5% of the ballots cast in the previous election, in order for city council to form an ordinance.
When SOCO Rocks submitted 224 signatures, city council members prepared the ordinances in order for the initiatives to be placed on the ballot.
The mayor and several city council members testified that they were not aware of the city charter provision that required a specific number of signatures for a petition to be deemed sufficient, according to court documents.
Ballot measure 2A, which called for a 5% cannabis tax — was approved by 1,102 voters, compared to 902 voters who opposed, according to the Canon City Daily Record. Ballot measure 2B, which permitted recreational cannabis shops in Lamar, passed with 1,708 votes for and 917 opposed, the newspaper reported.
Brent Bates, a Lamar resident who has worked in the cannabis and hemp industry for the past decade, said he understands the judge’s ruling, but feels that he went “against the will of the voters,” noting that both initiatives were passed by a nearly 11% margin.
“As someone who’s worked in the industry, I’d love to see Lamar prosper with the revenue from the taxation,” Bates said. “This could really open up a lot of doors, economically.”
He said he’s also seen the benefits of medical marijuana when his mother was battling brain cancer and that his friends have used cannabis to help them stay away from other drugs.
Bates said he feels the mayor and city council members now have the opportunity to “right the ship” and place the initiatives on the next ballot.
“I feel like this is an opportunity for the council and mayor to be the heroes in this situation,” he said.
City council will hold a special meeting Monday to discuss the town’s next steps, Mayor Kirk Crespin said. He declined to comment further.