Voters were split on whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries within Aurora’s city limits as of Wednesday evening.
In Adams County, about 53 percent of voters wanted to allow dispensaries within the city, but about 52 percent of voters in Arapahoe County wanted to prohibit them within the city, as of press time.
Arapahoe County still has to tabulate more than 25,000 outstanding votes and about 7,500 provisional ballots.
The numbers aren’t surprising, said Brian Vicente, lawyer and executive director of the medical marijuana advocacy group Sensible Colorado.
“We did expect it to be close,” he said. “We knew this would be a tough election cycle going in.”
Young people are the largest demographic group in support of medical marijuana, but they usually have among the lowest voter turnout rates for midterm elections, so that was working against medical marijuana advocates, Vicente said.
Even with those factors working against medical marijuana supporters, Vicente says there is still a “fighting chance” that dispensaries will be allowed in Aurora, once all the votes are tabulated. He says the margin bodes well for other potential medical marijuana ballot initiatives in 2012.
“Using this as a benchmark, moving forward, Aurora and other communities are going to see that their neighbors in Denver and other places are benefiting from large tax bases and jobs from these dispensaries,” he said. “When the sky doesn’t fall, I think their tune may shift and they may begin to embrace these wellness centers.”
Aurora City Councilwoman Sue Sandstrom said she wasn’t surprised by the statistics either.
But she was shocked that there wasn’t a campaign around the medical marijuana ballot issue.
“I was surprised there was so little discussion around it prior to the election,” she said. “I expected some advertising on behalf of dispensary owners who wanted to allow them.”
Sandstrom said she informally polled her constituents in Ward V and the majority of them said they did not want to allow them. But City Councilwoman Molly Markert’s constituents in Ward IV said in an informal poll that they did want them.
Sandstrom also said she did not approve of the way the ballot language was written.
“To me, it’s backwards,” she said.
City Attorney Charlie Richardson advised city council members this summer to stick closely to the directives of the state legislature regarding the ballot language, to avoid possible lawsuits.
However, Vicente said lawsuits against the city could occur despite the outcome of this year’s election.
“I think there is a pretty strong constitutional argument that dispensaries are part of allowing access for sick people to have medical marijuana,” he said.
Voters in other municipalities and counties approved marijuana dispensaries within their jurisdictions, including the cities of Fraser and Minturn.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Aurora Sentinel
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