Lamar Marijuana Ballot Survives Challenge

Drive thru, Drop-off Ballot Box



“The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office (Division) moves the Deputy Secretary of State to dismiss the above-entitled Lobbyist Complaint on the grounds that Complainant failed to specifically identify violations of Colorado lobbyist laws under section 24-6-301, et seq, C.R.S.”

Belinda Sturges approached the Lamar City Council during a public meeting this past November, asking about the legitimacy of the petitions filed with the City of Lamar which placed questions 2A and 2B on the November General Election before Lamar residents.  Those ballot questions dealt with establishing levels of a tax placed on sales of recreational and medical marijuana and in the other portion, for voters to approve or reject the public sale of marijuana products, among other allowances.  Both questions passed.  Lamar Mayor Crespin and City Attorney, Lance Clark, explained at that time, that they were aware of the questions pertaining to the validity of the petitions, but as the matter was under legal review, they could not provide her at that time with any answers to her questions.

The State Elections Division noted, “On November 10, 2021, Belinda Sturges (Complainant) filed a Complaint with the Division, under Lobby Rule 5. 1.1 alleging that Cindy Sovine (Respondent) violated Colorado lobbying laws.  Specifically, Complainant alleges that (1) Respondent engaged in lobbying without reporting her income on TRACER, (2) Respondent circulated petitions that were insufficient, (3) the parties carrying the petitions were not disclosed, and (4) Respondent “represented she was working for SOCO Rocks who only held a name reservation with the SOS.”

“On November 10, 2021, Respondent submitted a response to the Complaint, what included several supporting documents including a scope of work agreement for ballot campaign management services, communications with the Secretary of State’s office, communications with the City Clerk of the City of Lamar, and messaging related to the ballot question.”

“The Division moves to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that Complainant failed to specifically identify violations of Colorado lobbyist laws under section 24-6-301 et sec, C.R.S.”

The full document can be found with the Secretary of State’s Office, “In the Matter of Cindy Sovine Lobbyist Complaint L2021-03 and was issued on December 1, 2021.

The Prowers Journal spoke with Sovine regarding the outcome of the claim who explained, “The City Charter was actually followed twice and I came on after the petitions were out, so my viewpoint is historical or after the fact.  All required signatures were secured on the first petition.  Actually, there were two because they pulled the binders apart the first time which wasn’t supposed to happen, so the city dismissed everything and rightfully so.  The second petition also went by the book and that was the process the campaign went through.”

Sovine stated that she was lobbying for SOCO, but is independent from the group as she has handled similar matters in several local jurisdictions throughout Colorado, mostly working at the state level.

“Lamar had the most requirements I’ve ever seen as they inquired about the types of messaging we would use, how it would be applied, in what format…it all shows just how seriously the city took the campaign,” she stated, adding that most cities use a two-question ballot, as the ones that have only one find they have violated the single subject rule on the ballot which is usually invalided and they have to go back and use a two part question.”

She said that Prowers County has the option for the taxation of marijuana sales and if the county decides to, it can open up the county to allow additional dispensaries as well, “They can open it up to any community to legalize sales like any other city.”

Sovine acknowledged that the city is going to take a year to explore the ramifications of legal sales before they develop the governing ordinances.  “Apparently the council will question how many stores there will be in Lamar and set up a process for awarding licenses to applicants.  These new businesses will bring more jobs to the community and hopefully aid the current businesses in town by bringing more customers into the area.  But if you want to maximize the amount of sales tax revenue, why would you place these stores in out of the way locations? You’ll still have sales but probably not to the level you would with a more mainstream, accessible location.”

Sovine was asked if, because SOCO was the petition initiator and bore the expense of putting the questions on the ballot, would they expect any priority position when it comes time to award a sales license to a marijuana retailer.

She said once the city determines what types of licenses they want to allow and how many, they have to address the selection criteria.  “If you just pull names out of a hat, you’ll just have a lottery, and I don’t think the city will operate that way.  That way, you may have a partner who has never operated in this community with a new substance for sale over which you have limited control and that’s dicey and that choice can limit the ability to be able to start with local ownership.  Applications at the state level are extremely involved, plus an applicant needs a suitability license as an owner even before that step.  This is not for the faint of heart and it carries risk, so when a town starts the application process it needs to explore a businesses’ track record for its past operations in other communities.”

By Russ Baldwin




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