Breckenridge voters reject marijuana on Main Street in advisory election | VailDaily.com

Breckenridge voters reject marijuana on Main Street in advisory election

Phil Lindeman
plindeman@summitdaily.com
After months of debate, the Breckenridge town council voted 5-1 on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, to hold a mail-in ballot special advisory election on whether or not to allow retail marijuana stores to operate in the historic district.
Brandon Evans / bevans@summitdaily.com |

Breckenridge voters have spoken: They don’t want retail marijuana on Main Street.

On Tuesday, just shy of a year after retail marijuana hit the market, the town of Breckenridge held a nonbinding, advisory election on whether to change or uphold an ordinance banning retail dispensaries downtown. Residents voted against retail marijuana by a margin of more than two to one, with 925 votes against and 400 votes for Main Street shops.

The turnout represents nearly half of all registered voters — easily one of the largest showings for a special election in Breckenridge, town officials said.

After missing the deadline for a November ballot question, the town council opted to hold a special election in December. The result isn’t binding, but the overwhelming no vote will likely influence the council’s final decision.

Residents voted against retail marijuana by a margin of more than two to one, with 925 votes against and 400 votes for Main Street shops.

And popular opinion has varied wildly. Over the past few weeks, community leaders, local dispensary owners, former town mayors and dozens more have weighed in on the special election.

“I believe in voting because it’s an important concept,” said Keith Wingate-Keefers, a Breckenridge resident of 38 years who voted for retail marijuana. “Breck has been the spearhead on the marijuana issue since it began, so there’s no reason to back down now.”

The back-and-forth arguments read like Cliff’s Notes for the marijuana industry debate in Colorado ski towns. Opponents say dispensaries and retail shops on Main Street will tarnish the town’s family-friendly image, driving potential visitors to other ski towns. (Vail, Winter Park and Beaver Creek have voted against retail sale.) Proponents say Breckenridge is already a national poster child for retail pot, and if the town’s current crop of dispensaries is any indication, there’s demand for sales in the heart of downtown.

At the moment, Breckenridge has issued 14 marijuana licenses. The licenses, spread among five business — including Breckenridge Cannabis Club, the only dispensary currently on Main Street — cover retail and medical sales, cultivation and product manufacturing.

If the council upholds the current ordinance, Main Street will remain off limits to retail dispensaries and Breckenridge Cannabis Club must pack up by Feb. 2. A new ordinance will only allow for retail sale along Main Street, with no more than five stores in the downtown area. It will also limit stores to one per block.

The earliest that the town council can decide on the ordinance is the next regular meeting on Jan. 13.