A New Prohibitionist Strategy in Colorado
by Brian Bahouth
Pueblo County stands out as one of the brightest cannabis success stories since Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012. Pueblo County voters approved the measure to legalize the cultivation, manufacture, and sale of retail marijuana by a 55.6% margin, and cannabis businesses have effectively operated for 2 years since legalization.
In that short time the cannabis sector now makes up nearly 10% of the county’s tax revenue, with $20 million in retail sales in 2015. The effect on commercial real estate has been a profound job creator in a part of the county that otherwise would be fallow. The depth and breadth of Pueblo County cannabis beneficiaries is too long and detailed for a mannerly narrative and introduction to an audio interview, but do have a look at the brief video below and this document that outlines the impressive economic, cultural, and educational impacts of legal cannabis in Pueblo County.
But all is not well for marijuana in Pueblo. There is an opt out clause in Amendment 64, and a group called Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo have successfully placed Ballot Proposition 200 on the November 2016 ballot.
If approved by voters, ballot Proposition 200 would prohibit retail marijuana stores, manufacturing, testing facilities, and growing operations in Pueblo County and stop Pueblo County’s fastest spinning economic dynamo cold.
The region has endured a century of brutal economic whiplash. The boom and bust cycles of a massive steel mill that employed as many as 25,000 people at its peak ended when the mill closed some 50 years ago, and since then, there have been efforts at urban renewal and other economic stimulus, but the Pueblo regional economy has been a flat line until a young and growing marijuana industry added millions of dollars a year and some 1,300 jobs to a region with the highest unemployment rate in the state.
Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo say retail marijuana outlets and the homeless population the cannabis industry ostensibly attracts is not worth the economic benefits of legal cannabis.
The initiative itself is as terse as the language on the group’s website. I am still awaiting entry into the coalition’s closed Facebook group. The chair of the group, Charlene Graham, has a reputation for not speaking with cannabis friendly publications, and the anti-cannabis group provides little or no rationale for attempting to murder the region’s fastest growing economic engine, other than they don’t like it … from the group’s website:
What Do We Want?
We want the PEOPLE to decide. The citizens of Pueblo haven’t had the opportunity to make a serious, informed decision about pot in our communities. The county commissioners claim there have been three votes, but they aren’t being square with us.
So why are they afraid of bringing this to a vote? Because WE THE PEOPLE know how devastating pot has been and they know we’ll vote it out.
The county commissioners have been slack on the job and rather than seeking legitimate businesses and jobs for our graduating students, they’ve been happy to allow big money to run the show.
And what has it gotten us? The highest crime rate in the state, constant dangers through over use of electricity and illegal hash oil production, draining the community dry of our natural resources, and EIGHT (so far) massive pot busts in our own neighborhoods.
Its time to take back our community!
State-wide in 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 by a 54.8% margin. In Pueblo County 55.6% voters approved the initiative, and now, ballot Proposition 200 marks the first time in Colorado that a region has held a referendum to opt out of select provisions of Amendment 64, a new strategy.
A grass-roots group of nearly 200 regional cannabis businesses have come together under the umbrella, Growing Pueblo’s Future. I spoke with Jim Parco, a representative for the group and a fascinating person. He is a Pueblo native who attended the Air Force Academy and spent 20 years in the US Air Force. Now he is a Professor of Economics & Business at Colorado College and owner of a cannabis dispensary in Pueblo County, Mesa Organics … here is that interview … (16:03) …