(Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

Larkspur group against recreational pot speaking out as vote looms

A group of Larkspur residents has united to stop retail marijuana from becoming a reality in the small town in southern Douglas County.

Voices Against Pot in Larkspur, a committee of seven residents, formed a few weeks ago in response to three ballot initiatives before voters April 8 that would establish the retail marijuana industry, the regulations for it and a 5 percent excise tax. The ordinances are also written in a way that after the first $45,000 the town gets in retail marijuana revenue, the rest would go to the town’s roughly 150 voters.

Becky Voth, who’s lived in Larkspur for 18 months and formed the committee, is concerned about traffic and possible crime the new industry would bring.

“It’s a small town, and the majority of us have moved here for small town values and quaintness and quiet,” Voth said. “I don’t think we need to have the accessibility.”

She also said she feels there’s not enough data or studies to show whether the impact of a retail marijuana industry in Larkspur would be good or bad.

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“I think there are too many things we don’t know with the edibles and the access to children,” Voth said, adding she worries about her eight-year-old daughter “You can’t tell me 15-year old kids aren’t trying alcohol — what’s to stop them from trying it if it’s in their houses?”

She said since El Paso County and all of Douglas County except Larkspur have banned retail marijuana, Larkspur would become a destination for people looking to buy marijuana.

That’s what James McVaney is betting on. He’s with the Cannabis Patients Alliancecq and helped Larkspur resident Michelle Burhenn put together the petition to get the ordinances on the ballot. McVaney said he lives in nearby Perry Park, not in the town limits of Larkspur. He’s posted flyers around town that show what the ballot initiatives will do and a graphic of a check written out to $24,000, which is what he thinks each Larkspur voter could get each year. The ordinances are also written that there would be no fewer than three retail marijuana stores in the town, although he said council could change that. That would mean a total of $72,000,000 from three stores in one year.

Voth thinks that’s a lot of wishful thinking and that McVaney is being deceptive about the numbers.

She’s not the only one.

“I believe it would not be a family-friendly environment, and I believe we have enough sources of other income with family-friendly activities and events and providers like the Renaissance Festival and Yogi Bear Park . I don’t think it is time for the town to accommodate something like that,” said Ian Steyn, founder of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Larkspur, a 100-acre outdoor adventure recreational vehicle park in Larkspur.

Voth also said representatives from the Renaissance Festival, the town’s largest seasonal revenue generator each summer, were also opposed to the new industry. Representatives from the festival could not be reached for this report.

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“This town is not hurting like they think it is hurting,” said Kristin Cutbirth, who is part of Voth’s committee and grew up in Larkspur. She has lived in the community continuously since 1992. “We are in fairly decent shape for a small town due to the right people being in office and knowing how to manage a town.

“I believe that it will cost us way more in expenses to maintain or administer these businesses than it’s going to bring in; it is just not worth it in my mind,” she said, adding there’s a lot of paperwork that goes into administering retail marijuana stores.

McVaney said opponents concerned about traffic are largely misinformed, as the new businesses would be on the north end of town, away from the main businesses.

While Voth said she was unsure of how the vote would go, Cutbirth said she was optimistic it would not pass. She said that’s largely based on talking to 15 or so households in her neighborhood. Douglas County voters overwhelmingly voted against Amendment 64 , which legalized marijuana in Colorado in 2012.

Steyn said he doesn’t want Larkspur to become a test site for retail marijuana.

“I just want the voters of Larkspur to look at this with open eyes and not just be looking at it just for the money,” Cutbirth said.

The town is hosting a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Larkspur Firehouse, 9414 Spruce Mountain Road, where the town will present the pro and cons and allow for 40 three-minute public comment periods.

Clayton Woullard: 303-954-2953, cwoullard@denverpost.com or twitter.com/yhclayton

This story was first published on DenverPost.com