Potential rec marijuana ban in Colorado county could create havoc for state’s MJ industry

16743675 - close-up map of pueblo, colorado

By Bart Schaneman

A vote next month on whether to ban recreational marijuana businesses in Pueblo County, Colorado, could have huge ramifications for the entire state’s cannabis industry.

If Ballot Question 200 passes, a major marijuana supply source would dry up, dozens of businesses would have to close and scores of workers could lose their jobs.

A yes vote also could dampen industry revenues and push up wholesale adult-use cannabis prices across Colorado, a development that would be felt by the state’s rec shop owners and other businesses including extract producers and edibles makers.

“I think the largest concern is that Pueblo has become a very valuable and necessary supply source,” said Mark Slaugh, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, a Colorado-based trade group. Slaugh estimates that Pueblo County supplies an estimated 30% of the state’s wholesale recreational marijuana.

Prop 200 also could set an influential precedent for other Colorado counties, towns and cities, industry officials say. Pueblo County is home one of Colorado’s larger cities, Pueblo (population 110,000). If the measure passes, the county would be the first in the state where citizens ban an existing adult-use industry.

The measure would require all recreational marijuana testing, cultivation and product manufacturing facilities in the county, along with rec stores, to close by Oct. 31, 2017. The county would be barred from approving new licenses for these facilities. The initiative would not affect the county’s medical marijuana industry.

“Losing any local jurisdiction is nothing that anybody in the industry wants to see happen,” said Ean Seeb, partner and co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting. “But losing one of the largest cities where recreational cultivation is taking place could prove rather problematic for operators all over the place, in various ways.”

Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo, which argues legalization has had a negative impact on the community, put forward the ballot measure.

“We believe the health and safety of our community is more important than the marijuana industry,” the group says on its website. “Pueblo is not safer or healthier with a growing marijuana industry promoting and selling a harmful drug.” The group also notes the marijuana industry is a large user of water and electricity.

But cannabis industry officials argue that Pueblo County’s legal marijuana production directly competes with black market marijuana interests and captures tax revenue.

“You could imagine if we have 30% less supply available,” the Cannabis Business Alliance’s Slaugh said. “Prices would go up, we would have fewer legitimate sales and empower the black market.”

Every time one of these votes comes up, industry officials worry that other jurisdictions will attempt a similar move.

“It sets a very dangerous precedent for the industry due to those who are seeking different tactics to try and put an end to the industry as we know it,” Seeb of Denver Relief Consulting said.

Jim Parco, a spokesman for Growing Pueblo’s Future (Vote No on 200), as well as owner of rec store Mesa Organics in Pueblo, pointed to the potential job and economic losses at the local level.

Of the 183 rec cannabis licenses that have been issued by Pueblo County, 21 are for retail shops. Pueblo cannabis industry officials contend the ballot measure would eliminate some 1,300 jobs and cost the county $3 million in annual tax revenue.

“These are state-licensed, non-minimum-wage-paying jobs directly from the retail cannabis industry,” Parco said.

The initiative, he noted, targets the regulated recreational market, but wouldn’t have any impact on a person’s ability to grow, consume or possess marijuana.

“Marijuana wouldn’t go away,” Parco said. “Just all the economic benefits would leave Pueblo County.”

Under Prop 200, stores offering both medical and recreational sales would have to discontinue adult-use operations. Iesha Jiron, general manager of medical and recreational store Leaf on the Mesa in Pueblo, said about 75% of her staff would be let go.

“We haven’t seen this kind of tax revenue since the ‘80s when the steel mill was here,” Jiron said. The steel crash in 1982 devastated Pueblo’s economy, and the city has been recovering ever since. Jiron said in recent years the town has seen an uptick in tourism and jobs.

“We have done everything that we could possibly do to stay in compliance and to make sure that we follow the rules so that we as businesses can stay open. I think the opposition is uneducated about what our industry is and what our industry does. And they don’t care to educate themselves on our rules and regulations,” Jiron said.

Residents of the city and county of Pueblo, meanwhile, also will be voting on additional marijuana-related ballot questions:

  • Ballot question 1C, a countywide initiative, would urge the Colorado General Assembly to pass legislation or initiate a constitutional amendment limiting the amount of homegrown marijuana to no more than 18 plants per parcel.
  • Ballot question 2B would lift a moratorium on additional retail rec shops within the city of Pueblo.
  • Ballot question 2C would increase taxes on the city of Pueblo’s existing rec stores and operations by 4.3%, with an option for the city council to raise taxes by up to 15%.
  • Ballot question 300 would permanently ban rec stores in the city.
7 comments on “Potential rec marijuana ban in Colorado county could create havoc for state’s MJ industry
    • J.K on

      Exactly Leo, I really think people should put their heads around the idea that not only does the legality create tax revenue, it also keeps your children from finding their lives dealing drugs!!! If it’s not legal, somebody’s gunna make money from it.
      It is also surprising how much black market action was required to sustain such incredible amounts of marijuana that Colorado consumes!

      Reply
  1. Ron on

    I am in support of medical marijuana facilities but not recreational.. in my opinion, I believe the recreational market has diminsihed the value of helping patients in need by allowing the sub cluture market to thrive an continue the stigma that this great meicine has to continue to fight.

    Reply
  2. kathleen chippi on

    When (supposedly) pro-pot language like A64 (CO) does NOT declare peoples access to (non-toxic) cannabis (for any and all uses) a protected RIGHT and removes NO criminal penalties from the books this is what ‘we the people’ get: the possible 4 new probationary and/or outright ban laws in Pueblo alone and one that violates all (MMJ and MJ) private/home cultivation and property rights. And the A64 SCAMpaign promised voters that if A64 passed, they were “Ending Prohibition”. So sad they were ‘permitted’ (in violation of Colorado law) to misinform the voters about what their initiative actually did.

    Who benefits: The attorneys/A64 authors from the national (supposedly) pro cannabis groups who were brought to Colorado (2006) to keep the chaos of prohibition and their job security/profits alive and well. (Since they directed companies to Pueblo, if I were one of those companies I’d rethink their professional ‘guidance’). The grassroots activists who didn’t have support or funding from George Soros/MPP/DPA/ASA/NCIA/NORML warned voters that A64 was so poorly written (intentionally) that this was bound to happen. But the big players don’t care as they made their ‘royals’ in CO and they are moving on to other states (like CA) who are about to pass even more restrictive/exclusionary language to make bigger royals there.

    There were 4 other pro cannabis initiatives with ballot title in 2012 that did not allow for the future creation of additional cannabis prohibitions that were bashed by this elite ‘industry’. The (A64) “Marijuana Barons” (quote CNN) lobbied for (bought) language that temporarily ‘set aside’ prohibition for themselves (1%ers), made enough in profits to qualify themselves the title ‘barons”, created the largest law enforcement bureaucracy for the specific purpose of (non-toxic, therapeutic) cannabis enforcement that has a budget larger than the budget for all violent crime and alcohol regulation in Colorado combined, while prohibition and unconstitutional enforcement remains for “we the people” (99%).

    Big Business and Big Government have successfully RE-BRANDED more unscientific, inhumane, classist, 1937 Reefer Madness/Prohibitions, based on lies, prejudice and greed, as “legalization” and “adult use”. And now ‘we the people’ (99%) can buy their (pesticide ridden) pot with an unheard of (for ANY other product/substance) 25-50% tax on it to fund their continued REEFER MADNESS war based on lies prejudice and greed.

    The 30 year cannabis activist in me hopes all the initiatives fail yet the principled me realizes the bigger lesson or truth could more likely come from passage of the 3 A64 business targeted initiatives (Ballot Questions 200, 2C and 300). Hopefully more will see through the Big Business/Big Government ‘haze’ (oligopoly). Get ready for the unwarranted home searches (re-branded ‘compliance checks’) already taking place across the state. And remember: without a warrant, don’t let them in.

    Reply
  3. JR Gonzalez on

    The people against recreational marijuana should also be against ALCOHOL!! Alcohol has been ruining lives for hundreds if years! Domestic violence DUIs Drunk Driving Rapes Robbery Murder. Marijuana is NOT the cause of the downfall of our community THAT would be Heroine and lack of jobs. People that smoke weed don’t go out committing crimes they want to just relax. Has alcohol taxes contributed to our local economy? Does alcohol have any health benefits? Does alcohol create jobs with livable wages? People are so he’ll bent on being against a substance that they say is ruining our community when they don’t care about ALL substances!!! Sooooo stupid!

    Reply

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