Tom Ross

Tom Ross

Tom Ross: Deciphering the Steamboat Springs election vote


Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or

Find more columns by Tom here.

— Tuesday’s election results proved once and for all that I am the world’s worst at predicting political outcomes. And I have a college degree in political science.

No matter what your educational background, if you are like me, you’ve probably spent the past few days sifting through election returns trying to understand the meaning behind the city and county electorates’ vote to reject a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries by a significant margin.

More than 54 percent of county voters rejected Referendum 1A, and voters in Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek (Referendums 2C and 2E, respectively) rejected similar bans in their communities by 60 percent. Yampa voters favored Referendum 2A, banning dispensaries by a total vote of 92-50.

Some will look in the rearview mirror and say that had the Routt County measure not been plugged into the same election cycle as the Steamboat referendum, it would have been approved. It’s true that 1,832 county voters outside Steamboat voted in favor of the ban and 1,717 opposed it — a surprisingly narrow (to me) margin.

But the political calculus obviously is not as simple as subtracting Steamboat precincts from the Routt County vote. First, everyone who lives in Steamboat also lives in the county. And realistically, at least a percentage of Steamboat voters on both sides

of the question would have been motivated to turn out the vote on the county measure, even without a city referendum on the ballot.

It’s easy to pronounce that “the people have spoken.” But what really were they saying?

We all can agree that several thousand voters who do not hold medical marijuana cards opposed the ban.

Perhaps they were thinking:

■ The prevailing marijuana laws are the 2011 equivalent of prohibition.

■ It was unfair of the city to create an environment that encouraged entrepreneurs to invest in marijuana-based businesses, only to put a question before the voters that would have pulled the rug out from under them.

■ Our society is hypocritical in the way it allows children to watch beer commercials during NFL football games but demonizes an herbal remedy.

■ If only out-of-state residents were eligible for medical marijuana cards in Colorado, we could build a substantial marijuana-driven tourism industry right here in Ski Town USA.

■ Our school district needs the revenue that medical marijuana generates for the half-cent sales tax the city collects for the Steamboat Springs Education Fund.

I don’t have the answers to these provocative questions. But I do have a slam-dunk recommendation for school district and city officials.

The Steamboat Springs School Board faces a dilemma about whether to continue funding its share of the cost of placing a Steamboat police officer in the high school in the role of community resource officer. Considering that the half-cent of sales tax for education applies to marijuana sales, would it be appropriate for the Education Fund Board to offer the School Board the gift of an amount equivalent to marijuana tax receipts to help fund the school resource officer?

I doubt that medical marijuana sales generate enough tax revenues to fund half of the salary for that position. But at the least, it would solve a moral dilemma.

Similarly, the city could break out the equivalent of sales tax revenues generated by medical marijuana and fund a drug education program for youths through Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.

There’s one thing I’m fairly confident of: The thousands who voted against the ban weren’t saying that they are indifferent to the social ills children and adolescents can be exposed to through experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

And just in case you were wondering, yes, I inadvertently inhaled some funny-smelling smoke during the free Grace Potter concert at Howelsen Hill last summer. It was difficult to avoid, but I’m fairly certain that I did not cop a buzz.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom Ross, There have been plenty of polls asking people about their opinions on various aspects of mj and there is no need for you to speculate as you did.

First, the baby boomers and younger who have seen mj used by people for years do not consider mj to be that dangerous of a drug. That acceptance of mj not being that harmful is significantly higher among those with college degrees.

The polls show that among those that approve of mmj or legalization that they do not believe mj is that harmful (ie. that it is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco) and do not accept the claim that mj is a gateway drug any more than alcohol or tobacco are gateway drugs.

And while no one is indifferent to the social ills of drugs or alcohol, it makes no sense to use tax revenues attributable to mmj for substance abuse programs while using revenues attributable to alcohol sales for general city government uses.


steamboatsprings 5 years, 6 months ago

Just smoke your brain way Scott, Tom has some thoughtful comments but you "just know" the truth despite the facts


captnse 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom, well writen story as usual. thanks. We are so lucky to live in Stmbt. Sp.. we are lucky that as we age we can use a drug of pleasure To ease our pain and suffering. Many states still spend law enforcement time and money to prosecute people for the victumless crime of posessing GOD's herbal gift. States will take away your home and car and throw you in jail just for posessing The flower of just one plant.What was accomplished by incarcerating citizens for marijuana use?I just hope our city and cops realize MMJ is a tax source. The bill of rights guarantees fredom to make personal choices. Police are to serve And protect our city. Not harassing sick adults for victumless crimes. ( hopefully old cop mentality)I & we can now respect our police force. No longer in fear of jail detension for posessing a herbal medical remedy.


hereandthere 5 years, 6 months ago

Moral dilemma? Is this guy really taking the position that the voters rejecting the ban on mmj dispenseries is in someway a moral failure? Use tax revenues from the sales of mmj to fund Grand Futures? And no thought regarding that maybe tax revenues from the sale of alcohol should be used in the same way.. The only moral failure that I saw was the hypocritical position that was at the core of the ban follks position. As pointed out repeatedly, this community has a far more serious problem with alcohol. But I still have not seen any movement on the part of Ross and his like minded cronies to show any concern regarding this drugs problems. In fact, I 'll wager that while Ross was trying to avoid smelling some funny smelling smoke, he did so while holding a beer in has hand.


kathy foos 5 years, 6 months ago

I think Tom is spot on with this analysis,many people that voted not to ban are not patients.Possibly even though they don't participate,many may have older friends that use m.j. for pain and voted to help them out.Its impressive that so many are concerned for others and voted to help them.Without these people ,,,in my opinion it would not have passed.It shows how important everyones vote and voice are.


mmjPatient22 5 years, 6 months ago

Wow! I guess there are a lot of sore losers about this whole "dispensaries get to stay" thing. One would think that the vote would have settled the issue for everyone, but I guess that's just too perfect of a world.

And was this some kind of snide, sarcastic remark Tom?

"There’s one thing I’m fairly confident of: The thousands who voted against the ban weren’t saying that they are indifferent to the social ills children and adolescents can be exposed to through experimentation with drugs and alcohol."

What I really want to know is, why haven't we heard anything from ol' Doc Victory & Wacky Watts about how disappointed they are with the community for the way that the vote turned out? What about some grand warning cautioning everyone about how this is going to spark some huge crime wave, or some huge peak in DUID's, or how it's going to make everyone's kids start getting high all the time? That's all okay though. Go ahead and assume that you're on the moral high ground. Go ahead and continue to act as though 2/3's of the voters here didn't just disagree with you by voting to keep the dispensaries in business.


bigfatdog 5 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Tom. Always enjoy your thoughts and perspective.


rhys jones 5 years, 6 months ago

You watch, some windbag(s) will get this on the ballot EVERY year, until they finally win by sheer attrition.

I enjoy your writings, too, Tom, and must observe that it must be like walking a tight rope, writing a column for a mixed-bag community such as this; who to pander to?

While I have always given you credit for open-mindedness to new ideas, such phrases as "moral dilemma" and "social ills" are cause for concern; this isn't the first generation to grow up with drugs in the neighborhood.

"Community resource officer"? You've got to be kidding. That's a full-time cop, on duty at the high school? Going through lockers in their vast spare time, I presume?

I attended on of the best high-school systems in the country -- the Shawnee-Mission schools (East, in my case) in the Kansas-side suburbs of Kansas City, back in the '70's, when the drugs available made today's selection seem like candy. While Prairie Village was relatively posh, compared to nearby KC, our cops still had plenty of real crime, to go wasting a whole officer making trouble at the high school.

Don't use the added income for something constructive; get more cops, SPEND IT!!


trump_suit 5 years, 6 months ago

Tell us Scott, why is it OK for you to spew your opinion on every single blog on this publication but it is not OK for one of their paid employees to write up his opinions?

Whether you agree with him or not, Tom Ross is entitled to his opinion and furthermore is actually paid to write it up and present it to us. Why would you have a problem with that?


Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom is entitled to his opinion. He is free to have opinions on why people that don't use mmj vote for mmj.

But there are any number of polls that have asked a statistically significant number of people that question along with related questions. So there are known facts on why non mj using voters approve of mmj.

So yes, Tom can speculate on why people do that, or he could look at facts on what people say that do that to answer his questions.


trump_suit 5 years, 6 months ago

Polls very rarely represent facts and it has been proven over and over again that you can manipulate the results of any given poll just be how you word the questions.

There are Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics. Mark Twain


Steven Ross 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom, Tom, Thomas... There is one thing that many of us stoners are fairly confident of: thousands of voters were not indifferent to the basic needs of adolescents or their socials ills, we were oblivious. Narcissism is a common problem in America. Many of the fair maidens that perform the poney dance to obtain ganja, will in turn smoke the heavenly herb when they are blowing their breakfast and losing their lunch due to being with child. An entire generation of Steamboat illicit offspring will be outrageously annoying to their teachers, not scoring par on their C-saps, and frightening tourists on the mountain with their screamer air time exploits. Tom the pie maker's son-the children of Yampa are not going to be exposed to hemp, they are going to be hit by a tsunami! Later they will live with their parents in their 40's


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