Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Struggling energy communities in rural Colorado get a boost from legalized cannabis sales

Trinidad, Colo. (Best Places maps)
Rural Colorado communities that have been hurt by the loss of coal and oil jobs are recovering through legal marijuana, or cannabis, Leah Todd reports for The Santa Fe New Mexican. Since the state legalized recreational marijuana three years ago "the new stream of tax dollars hasn’t yet made a significant dent in Colorado’s economy statewide. In 2015, tax revenue from marijuana sales of $996 million weighed in at about $135 million, barely 1 percent of the state’s overall budge."

But the effect of legal cannabis has been felt in rural areas, Todd writes. Trinidad, a struggling coal community near the New Mexico border, "has used $1.5 million in marijuana revenue to replace old infrastructure, pay down debt and help redesign a city block as studio apartments for a growing arts community."

"De Bequem an oil town off Interstate 70 near the Utah border, is home to two recreational pot shops, an indoor growing facility and barely 500 people," Todd writes. Lance Stewart, the town administrator, said the cannabis industry has created about 35 jobs and "last year’s revenue from marijuana sales tax alone was about $340,000, nearly 20 percent of De Beque’s $2 million budget."

Rural officials remain cautiously optimistic about the boon, mainly because Colorado currently has no competition from surrounding states, Todd writes. There is fear that if neighboring states legalize cannabis, "Colorado could lose its valuable status as an island of marijuana legalization in a sea of prohibition."

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