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Growth continues for Pueblo’s cannabis industry but criticism remains unchanged

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In one of the most monumental moments in history: when Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Commercial sales of cannabis rolled out January 1, 2014, and the Centennial State has never been the same.

For almost five years, Colorado has been at the forefront of the marijuana movement. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that Colorado pot shops pulled in over $1.5 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2017, yet there are only 25 out of 64 counties that currently permit some kind of marijuana business.

Pueblo is one of these counties and is leading the way in Colorado’s rapidly expanding legal pot industry. As the first county to allow outdoor and greenhouse commercial cannabis grows, many contend that it’s the perfect place to grow marijuana, likening it to the Napa Valley of weed. Los Sueños Farms is the largest of almost 200 outdoor cannabis farms in the county with a projected 20 tons expected in 2018.

Legal cannabis in Pueblo has created jobs. Saved a struggling economy. Brought in millions of dollars in revenue.

In a recent pilot study, economists at Colorado State University – Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research found some $35 million was generated in Pueblo from legal cannabis sales alone.

Chris Markuson, Pueblo County economic development and geographic information systems director says…

In one of the most monumental moments in history: when Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Commercial sales of cannabis rolled out January 1, 2014, and the Centennial State has never been the same.
For almost five years, Colorado has been at the forefront of the marijuana movement. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that Colorado pot shops pulled in over $1.5 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2017, yet there are only 25 out of 64 counties that currently permit some kind of marijuana business.
Pueblo is one of these counties and is leading the way in Colorado’s rapidly expanding legal pot industry. As the first county to allow outdoor and greenhouse commercial cannabis grows, many contend that it’s the perfect place to grow marijuana, likening it to the Napa Valley of weed. Los Sueños Farms is the largest of almost 200 outdoor cannabis farms in the county with a projected 20 tons expected in 2018.
Legal cannabis in Pueblo has created jobs. Saved a struggling economy. Brought in millions of dollars in revenue.
In a recent pilot study, economists at Colorado State University – Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research found some $35 million was generated in Pueblo from legal cannabis sales alone.
Chris Markuson, Pueblo County economic development and geographic information systems director says that the explosive growth of the recreational cannabis industry “literally saved our construction community” during the end of the recession and has accounted for more than half of Pueblo county’s construction revenue for the last three years.
In 2017, 210 Pueblo County High School students received $2000 each in scholarship money that came from marijuana taxes. In early 2018, there was nearly $750,000 in funding available for these scholarships, with Pueblo County officials estimating to award some 600 in the 2019-2020 academic year.
As legal as pot may be, not everyone is exactly on board with recreational weed in Pueblo. Remember, marijuana was illegal for a really, really long time, and there are still plenty of people that think it should stay that way.
First, there’s the whole “gateway drug” theory. Pueblo addiction psychiatrist Libby Stuyt holds strongly to the idea that marijuana is indeed a gateway drug that can ultimately lead to harder drugs.
She says that over the past few years that cannabis has been legal, there’s been a significant increase in patients whose main addiction is marijuana – although many also admit to using alcohol, cocaine, meth, or opiates.
A 2018 analysis report published by LiveStories who specialize in civic data analysis, looked at drug use trends following marijuana legalization in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. While it found that while marijuana use did increase following legalization in these states, there was little evidence that proved it to be a “gateway drug.”
According to Adnan Mahmud, founder of LiveStories, “We haven’t found any strong correlation that suggests increased marijuana use leads to increases in other substance abuse.”
He noted that heroin and opioid deaths in Colorado, while obviously a great concern, are actually slightly lower than the national average. Cocaine use in Colorado is slightly higher than the national average and has risen a bit in the last year, but Muhmad says that cocaine use in Colorado prior to marijuana legalization was somewhat higher than it is today.
Then there’s Pueblo’s homeless population. Anne Stattelman, director of non-profit organization Posada which offers housing assistance to Pueblo’s homeless population, believes legal weed is to blame for rise in Pueblo’s homeless population. She estimates that around one-third of those who end up homeless in Pueblo came to the city because of marijuana.
“You remember the Gold Rush? We call it the Pot Rush. Not only do people think they’ll be able to smoke marijuana,” Stattelman said, “but people think they can get jobs working in marijuana fields.”
Is legal pot really to blame for the rise of homelessness in Pueblo and other cities across Colorado? Homelessness is everywhere and whether or not the increase in cities like Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver is because of legal marijuana, it’s undoubtedly something that’s widely debated.
Pilot research that looked into the impact of legal cannabis in Pueblo Count…
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