COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After a controversial battle, Pueblo County citizens voted to keep recreational marijuana legal – a victory for those in the industry.
However, for those in opposition, not so much.
The unofficial election results show nearly 58 percent of voters said “No” to Proposition 200, which asked to repeal retail pot sales. About 42 percent voted “Yes.”
Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo is the group who got the question on the ballot. They argue Pueblo is not safer or healthier with an industry promoting a harmful drug.
Growing Pueblo’s Future is on the other side, saying legalization has single-handedly pulled Pueblo out of the recession.
Jim Parco was born and raised in Pueblo. Right along east Highway 50 is where his family’s farm sat for decades; now that same property is where Parco opened up Mesa Organics, a recreational marijuana shop.
He says with the recent vote, he and the rest of Pueblo County can continue to prosper.
“You’re very nervous when somebody puts a gun to your head.” Parco said, “I remember asking one of my employees early on before I got involved with the campaign, ‘Is this something we really want to step forward and advocate for?’ and she got tears in her eyes and said, ‘Please save my job.’
Parco, who also happens to be an economics professor, says massive commercial grow operations popping up throughout the county is proof enough of Pueblo’s pot success. However the opposition argues the bud boom isn’t worth the green.
“The world’s largest outdoor retail cultivation facility is here in Pueblo County,” said Parco. “They grow 22,000 plants and we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
A recent “60 Minutes” report called Pueblo County the Napa Valley of Weed and according to the Sheriff’s Office, since mid-March there have been 41 arrests made for illegal grows found in 30 homes in so-called cannabis country, something Parco says the industry is thankful for.
“The regulated retail industry, it has nothing to do with the illegal black market activity.” Parco said, “So when you actually look at all these illegal busts and illegal grows, we applaud the Sheriff. We need complete enforcement to make sure this goes away.”
Now that the people have spoken, Parco can rest easy knowing he won’t have to shut his doors. His effort now will be opening a National Marijuana Museum, although some might say this isn’t exactly the Rocky Mountain high they want visitors to remember.
The idea was brought up back in the summer, considering the area’s rich history in reefer. When Proposition 200 made it to the ballot, the thought of the museum was put on the back burner. Now a citizen organized committee has been formed.
They say since recreation is staying in Pueblo, they’re working hard to make this Marijuana Museum happen.
“It would be a wonderful economic engine to drive tourism and generate additional tax dollars, having people from outside the community shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants, sleep in our hotels. These are the kinds of things that we need to do to continue the economic development of our community and cannabis is now giving us that opportunity.”
The National Marijuana Museum is still in early planning; no real estate spotted just yet but we’ll be learning a lot more as this plays out.