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November 12, 2020

Littleton Approves Recreational Marijuana

Littleton voters overwhelmingly approved ballot questions allowing the sale of recreational marijuana.

According to preliminary results on Election Night, voters approved Ballot Question 300, allowing the city's three medical marijuana dispensaries to begin recreational sales, with 64.6% of the vote in the first round of election results at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, Littleton Independent reports.

The measure was the result of a citizen initiative spearheaded by owners of two Littleton medical marijuana dispensaries: Stanislav Zislis, who owns Silver Stem Fine Cannabis on Littleton Boulevard, and Scott Embree, who co-owns Ascend Cannabis Co. on Santa Fe Drive. Littleton's third medical marijuana dispensary is The Hemp Center on Datura Street. A fourth medical dispensary on Prince Street shut down several years ago.

The group was organized under an LLC called Residents for a Stronger Littleton.

"We're very happy and excited," Zislis said. "The voters spoke loud and clear."

The preliminary election results were almost exactly in keeping with public opinion polling cited by the group, which found 64% of respondents were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana sales in Littleton.

A financial assessment conducted by the group estimated that Littleton could collect between $935,000 and $1.5 million per year in additional sales tax revenue if the measure was approved.

"We think this is a win-win," Zislis said. "We'll be glad to provide some extra revenue for the city, and we hope they use it wisely."

The vote ends years of opposition to retail sales from city council, which first banned retail marijuana sales in 2014, after Colorado voters passed Amendment 64. That statewide measure, which also passed in Littleton, established a constitutional right to possess marijuana for personal use, but allowed municipalities to regulate whether sales were allowed.

City council reaffirmed the ban in May 2016, after Zislis and others pushed council to overturn it. More than 50 people on both sides of the issue turned out for a passionate public hearing at that meeting. Council voted 5-1 against allowing retail marijuana.

This year, Zislis and Embree took their case directly to voters, collecting more than 4,000 signatures on a citywide petition to place the measure on the ballot.

Littleton Mayor Jerry Valdes remained staunch in his opposition to the measure. 

"I think this will mean more drugs on our streets," Valdes said. "Next thing you know, we'll be getting complaints about the smell or people walking down the street smoking pot."

Zislis dismissed Valdes' concerns, saying if public use were going to be a problem, it already would be by now.

"We've seen neighboring cities approve retail sales before us, and they're not seeing these terrible things," Zislis said. "We're looking forward to working with city council to draft rules for this that will work for everyone."

Valdes said he's grateful for the extra tax revenue, but said he feels the vote is indicative of broader cultural changes in Littleton. 

"Littleton in the past was a fairly conservative city, but we're seeing a swing to the left," he said. "We're becoming a truly liberal city."

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