A growing number of states have legalized marijuana, but not every municipality within the confines of these progressive governments has been eager to get involved with the cannabis trade. In the eight states that have legalized the leaf for recreational use, several local jurisdictions have opted to keep their streets free of legitimate pot commerce.
Most of the naysayers are smaller cities, convinced that legal cannabis businesses might bring about increased crime and otherwise threaten their Mayberry way of life. But this attitude is misguided, according to a new report. It turns out that it the presence of marijuana operations is especially generous with respect to strengthening local economies. More importantly, this area of commerce pays for itself, creating jobs and security without sacrificing the infrastructure required to ensure public safety.
When Colorado moved to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, some folks were concerned that bringing the herb out of the underground might breed a heathenous uprising. Although the majority of the voters supported this reform at the polls, plenty of the people were still skeptical that legal marijuana would be good for all.
But for cities like Pueblo, which has a population of around 100,000, legal weed was a welcomed addition. Similar to other municipalities devastated by the collapse of the steel industry, Pueblo struggled for years to keep from drowning in a pool of destitution and downtrodden. In fact, until the cannabis industry was launched in 2014, the city’s primary employers consisted of only prisons and local hospitals. It also had one the highest unemployment rates in the state – several points lower than the state average.
But fortunately, the struggle is over.
Researchers at Colorado State University-Pueblo say the cannabis industry has been a salvation’s wing for Pueblo County. Their study, which was a collaborative effort alongside the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and the Industrial Hemp Research Foundation, shows that legal weed struck an economic chord to the tune of around $58 million in 2016.
This success, however, did not come for free. The city invested $23 million during that time to lay the groundwork for legal cannabis sales. But at the end of the day, Pueblo still reaped the benefit of roughly $35 million of economic impact.
What’s more is the situation is still improving. The economic impression from legal marijuana will spawn approximately $100 million annually within the next three years, the report finds. Not too bad for a city destined for ruins just a few short years ago.
It is common for marijuana’s opposing forces to claim that the trade off for all of this newfound prosperity is an overall decline in civil society. But that does not appear to be the case.
Contrary to reports that have surfaced over the years suggesting that legal marijuana has created an influx in immigration and homelessness, the study finds these claims to be untrue.
“We found no evidence that poverty has either increased or decreased in Pueblo as a result of cannabis legalization,” the study authors wrote.
Interestingly, the findings pertaining to homelessness are consistent with the testimony of experts like Donald Burnes, founder of the Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at the University of Denver, who has said on several occasions that legal marijuana has not brought about an uptick in homelessness throughout Colorado.
By all accounts, Pueblo should be considered a success story. Perhaps even an inspiration for other smaller communities still struggling with whether legal marijuana is right for them.
As it stands, there are municipalities all over the United States suffering from near economic collapse as a result of failing industries. President Donald Trump seems to believe he can resurrect steel and other manufacturing sectors lost over the years to foreign nations. But the reality is most of these jobs are forever dead.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The cannabis industry continues to prove that it has what it takes to breathe new life into towns ravaged by the fall of better times. Some of the latest research from New Frontier Data shows that the legal marijuana businesses could employ up to 1 million people by 2025. And it appears that previously scorched economies, like Pueblo, stand to benefit the most.