Hail Mary: How the Cannabis Industry is Breathing Economic Life Into Struggling Towns


Cannabis Industry Economic Impact Benefits Struggling Towns

For the struggling small town in America, cannabis can mean a new beginning. While many point to the monetary positives of legalizing marijuana sales, others do not believe the cannabis industry economic impact will benefit their town, even if it means jumpstarting its viability again.

Many small town folks´ fears are tied to the notion that more marijuana usage all around means a more unstable and potentially violent community. But this is not what studies have shown.

Forbes recently reported that those that think that legal cannabis businesses might bring about increased crime are misguided. “It turns out that 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.”

A Colorado State University-Pueblo study showed the cannabis industry revitalizes the struggling economy of steel towns that are on the verge of being erased off the map. For cities like Pueblo, Colorado, legalizing cannabis was like winning the lottery.

Case Study: Cannabis Industry Revitalizes Struggling Economy of Pueblo

With the steel industry´s collapse, Pueblo struggled for years to keep its head above water. It had one the highest unemployment rates in the state until the cannabis industry was launched in 2014.

Researchers at Colorado State University-Pueblo found that the cannabis industry has been an economic salvation 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, reported that legal weed brought in around $58 million in 2016.

When looking at its large earnings, it’s important to take into account that the city initially invested $23 million to lay the groundwork for legal cannabis sales. In the end, Pueblo still added roughly $35 million of economic impact. And the future also looks bright according to the study: the economic impression from legal marijuana will bring in approximately $100 million annually within the next three years, the report finds.

According to Dr. Rick Kreminski, director of the Institute of Cannabis Research, this study should be interpreted as a first step in examining the complex set of issues that relate to impacts on Pueblo both socially and economically since the statewide vote approving Colorado Amendment 64 in November 2012 and the implementation that began in earnest in 2014.

Since the Amendment’s passage, the report showed that poverty has neither increased or decreased in Pueblo. They found that homelessness has increased in Pueblo County, but the research did not find sufficient evidence for a cause and effect link between marijuana and homelessness. Overall crime has also increased in the city of Pueblo, but apparently on trend with expected averages given the increase in population and decrease in police personnel.

While more research needs to be done, for now Pueblo County´s story brings some hope to other failing municipalities across the United States who are on the fence about the cannabis industry. Perhaps legalizing marijuana is a ray of light for their town after all.

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