If you’ve been reading up on cannabis news lately, you’ve probably seen all the discourse down in pueblo county in regards to the recreational marijuana game. December 27th, 2016 marks the date that the Pueblo City Council finally established the licensing process for their recreational pot shops. It’s been a long time coming, but the rules and regulations have finally been set up for dispensaries in Pueblo proper. The city has decided to allow 8 recreational marijuana shops within the city jurisdiction, as well as how much they will pay in fees per year, and in which zones they can operate.
Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, Pueblo has started and stopped developing a program many times. For the longest time, it seemed they couldn’t come to a compromise among elected officials. In November, Pueblo citizens voted on the final decision along with licensing rules for the recreational stores, and finally, it seems that everyone is happy.
The Laws and Regulations
It’s definitely been a long, long road. But people are very excited to get started and hop aboard the colorado recreational weed bandwagon. It’s great for economies, and pueblo county could use it. Here are the details about what passed. It was difficult to include everything the council wanted to include, but all the good stuff made the cut.
At the beginning of this month, the ordinance will be set in motion and applications for recreational licenses will be accepted. By the time March rolls around, eight pueblo county pot shops will be given the chance to sell recreational marijuana. Medical dispensary owners, especially those who have several locations, will be favored more than others towards a recreational license because they are in good standing with the community already.
Every year, the new recreational dispensaries must pay a $15,000 fee to operate in Pueblo’s city limits. In order to prevent the stores to all exist in the same area, a line has been put in place. On the North side of the Arkansas river, 4 recreational dispensaries can exist. On the south side of the Arkansas river, 4 more shops may operate. This is to prevent a conglomerate of recreational pot shops in one area, and is also designed to encourage competition.
Aside from the line, the stores are also allowed to exist in the business district of pueblo county, but they must never be within 1000 feet of a school, 500 feet of substance abuse and rehabilitation centers, or 300 feet of residential homes.
What Didn’t Make the Cut and Why?
On December 27th, city council members voted unanimously to adopt the licensing ordinance, but some of the details weren’t easy to agree on for some. Many of the details seemed absurd to current marijuana industry workers and 3rd party economists, and were amended several times before they were put to a city-wide vote.
Initially, the pueblo city council wanted to do away with the division of the recreational pot shops by the arkansas river. District 4 Councilman Ray Aguilera was concerned however that the stores would all open in the same area, which would cause the city itself a bit of discourse. The concern was that too many recreational pot shops in one area would lower the value of the neighborhoods they spring up in, and several in one place could bring about more crime, which some areas of Pueblo aren’t currently equipped to deal with. Because these fears were based in reality, the council decided to stick with the river division.
The council expanded into the business district, which opened up a bit of real estate, but makes it difficult to adhere to the buffer zones, which makes it so recreational stores cannot operate within 1000 feet of schools, 500 feet of substance abuse and rehabilitation centers, or 300 feet of residential homes. This creates a few dark zones, where there are no options for real estate because the buffer zones are so narrow. David Lemon, a longtime marijuana advocate, told the city council the reality was that with the state buffering distances, most of the city was “blacked out” for retail stores.
Another weird one that never passed was that prospective recreational pot shop owners had to have $200,000 in assets at all times to operate. The argument for this idea was to prevent business failures and to ensure that the 8 recreational stores were continually able to function in good hands. The council struck this from the ordinance when it was brought to their attention that the banks don’t do business with cannabis businesses, and the recreational shop owners would essentially need to keep a duffel bag full of $200,000 in cash they’d have to keep in a safe somewhere.
The council also wanted to majorly raise the fees that the city is already charging wholesale recreational cannabis businesses. They voted 4-3 to raise the licensing fee for pot farmers from $5,00 to $15,000, which is absolutely staggering and pretty much uncalled for. Their reasoning behind this was because there were going to be a lot of applications sent through that the city workers had to go through. Each employee needs to be paid and increasing the fees would help cover these bases. Members Chris Nicoll, Lori Winner and Larry Atencio voted against the increase. After the fact, a compromise was reached to raise the renewal fee to $10,000 instead of $15,000 from $5,000. Effectively doubling the fees wholesale growers have been paying for a long while.
So What Does That Mean for Marijuana Shops Opening in Pueblo?
The voters finally decided to allow recreational shops in pueblo city limits, but the voters are still split on the decision. On one hand, you have the people who are afraid of seeing crime in their neighborhoods. Pueblo resident Dolly Grout said “Now the government is now becoming a drug dealer, all because of the tax money they could get. What do they think about the crime rate going high in Pueblo because of this?” “They push this marijuana to the city, where our kids are growing. Thinking marijuana is OK. It’s never OK. It was never OK in my time,” said Grout.
Even though places where recreational weed is legal tend to have lower crime rates, some folks still feel that it brings in the riff raff. Pueblo resident Laura Garcia said “Crime happens really with the real drugs. Meth, heroin, which is a big epic here in Colorado, especially in Pueblo,” in reply to Ms.Grout. She also said “I think it’s great for the city, the tax revenue goes right back into the city. That’s great for our children and schools and everything else our tax money goes to,”
As far as the city is concerned, though, it’s going to be good and it’ll work itself out. Pueblo City Councilman Bob Schilling said
“[Marijuana shops opening in Pueblo] Certainly means increased revenue. It means increase police, fire, public safety,”
No matter what side of the debate, the voters had the city’s best interests at heart. Pueblo anticipates bringing in between $800,000 to $1.3 million in taxes every year because of these changes, which will be a fantastic help to Pueblo county as a whole. Recreational pot taxes have done wonders for Denver, and we are all hoping to see Pueblo succeed.