People attending the No on Proposition AA campaign watch party smoke marijuana on the dab bus parked outside of Casselman's Bar and Venue in Denver in November 2013. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Denver sets 2015 ballot, without marijuana social use initiative

The Denver Elections Division on Thursday certified the Nov. 3 city/county ballot, but missing will be a hot-button voter initiative that would have expanded the city’s marijuana consumption rules to allow toking up at some bars and other businesses.

As The Denver Post reported late Wednesday, sponsors of that initiative decided to withdraw it. Instead they will work with city and business leaders to negotiate a compromise measure, reserving the right to launch a new ballot initiative next year if they’re not satisfied with the result.

That withdrawal happened Thursday afternoon — after an exchange between the Elections Division’s Alton Dillard and initiative backer Brian Vicente at the press announcement that TV reporters characterized as tense. (I didn’t attend.) At one point, the backers reportedly discussed whether to change course on their decision.

Later, Dillard, the Elections Division spokesman, said later that he didn’t intend to crash the news conference but only to provide information to the media. He also confirmed that the initiative would have qualified for the ballot, since election workers who still were working to verify the 10,000-plus signatures submitted by initiative backers last month had passed the threshold needed. They would have finished their work Friday if the initiative hadn’t been withdrawn.

Marijuana activist Mason Tvert, flanked by entrepreneur Jane West, left, and attorney Christian Sederberg, speaks outside the Denver Elections Division on Aug. 10, 2015. (Jon Murray, Denver Post file)
Marijuana activist Mason Tvert, flanked by entrepreneur Jane West, left, and attorney Christian Sederberg, speaks outside the Denver Elections Division on Aug. 10, 2015. (Jon Murray, Denver Post file)

Dillard said the verification process had cost taxpayers $18,000 to $20,000, including pay for 14 temp employees brought in to help and the time spent by two regular employees on the social marijuana use initiative’s petitions.

Now that we’ve talked about what won’t be on the ballot, here is what Denver voters will see when mail ballots arrive, in ballot order:

Denver Public School Board at-large seat: Allegra “Happy” Haynes and Robert Speth.

Denver Public School Board District 1 seat: Anne Rowe and Kristi Butkovich.

Denver Public School Board District 5 seat: Michael Kiley II and Lisa Flores.

State of Colorado Proposition BB: Asks voters whether to refund $58 million in excess marijuana taxes or use them for schools. The state is required to ask because of rules under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

City and County of Denver Questions:

Referred Question 1A (DIA development deal): Asks voters to approve an amendment to Denver’s 1988 intergovernmental agreement with Adams County to allow for commercial development on airport property in exchange for tax-sharing and an upfront $10 million payment to Adams County and its cities. Adams County voters also will be asked to approve the new agreement.

Referred Question 2A (college affordability): Asks voters to increase Denver’s sales tax by 0.08 points (8 cents per $100 purchase) to help students pay for college.

Referred Question 2B (marijuana tax retention): Asks voters to allow the city to keep $5.3 million collected in the first year from its separate 3.5 percent marijuana sales tax despite TABOR limits.

Referred Question 2C (National Western Center tax measure): Asks voters to allow the city to borrow $476 million to help pay for the massive National Western Center project to remake the stock show complex, plus $105 million for an expansion and upgrade of the Colorado Convention Center. The measure would authorize the permanent extensions of 1.75 percent portions of the city’s lodging and car-rental taxes, which otherwise are set to expire in 2023, to repay the bonds.

This story was first published on The Spot blog