PUEBLO, Colo., — The Denver Post reported Monday that a new study found that the marijuana market has brought Pueblo County a net positive economic benefit. The study says that the results include consideration for social services and law enforcement resources.
The study was conducted by researchers at Colorado State University in Pueblo. The 200-page report says that there was no significant decrease or increase in poverty due to legalization, but that the industry had more than a $35 million positive net impact on Pueblo County. The net impact is expected to be close to $100 million in three years.
Pueblo has provided scholarships that were funded by the local marijuana excise tax, donating $420,000 in 2017 for 210 students, with plans to donate $750,000 in scholarships this year. Legalizing marijuana in Colorado also increased the home value in the state by 6 percent.
Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace says that the study validates the many dedicated doctors who worked on legalization in the state. However, he said the study also advises areas needing improvement, such as education and collecting data on marijuana legalization impacts in the community more efficiently.
The study also found that the increasing rate of homelessness had no connection to marijuana legalizations in the state. Opponents of legalization worried that legalizing recreational marijuana would contribute to the homeless population, but the study provided evidence to the contrary. The researchers of the study concluded that one of the main causes of homelessness in Pueblo County was the inability for tenants to pay their utilities, not legal marijuana.
Sociology professor Tim McGettigan said that there have been several newspaper articles written recently blaming the homeless epidemic on legalized drugs, adding “That’s a story, but it’s more mythology than fact.”
The study identified the lack of affordable housing and employment opportunities as the main factors to the epidemic, adding that Black Hills Energy was responsible for at least 7,000 families being evicted in Pueblo. "Blaming it on cannabis is ludicrous,” said McGettigan.
The study found that military veterans have become increasingly homeless in the state, which they attributed to more veterans using medical marijuana for PTSD. Veterans are finding relief from PTSD with marijuana, and those living in a residence that discriminates against marijuana consumption risk eviction.
The Pueblo Board of County Commissioners funded the University's study with $270,000 from the Pueblo County 2016 budget marijuana excise tax revenue. The University of Colorado received another $900,000 from the state's Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to conduct the study.
Colorado Politician Wants Marijuana Removed from Schedule I Classification
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R- Colorado Springs) wants to remove the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, according to Colorado Public Radio. He wants to reclassify the drug so that research can be conducted to determine its medicinal value. The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, along with heroin.
The federal classification of the drug prevents federal funding for research, and the lack of financial support prevents state research facilities in legal marijuana states from conducting much-needed research, and Lamborn is now in support of studying the medical potential of marijuana.
Lamborn said that he would like more research to be done but says that it can't be done while marijuana remains in its current classification. Lamborn also noted that because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, safety concerns regarding the illegal market and drug traffickers should be acknowledged.
According to Forbes, marijuana revenue would be more than $100 million by 2025 if it was legal on the federal level, and it would stand to create more than one million jobs.