Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Colorado coal town that twice voted to ban pot sales now reconsidering after coal's decline

A rural Colorado town that has been hit hard by the downturn of coal is reconsidering its marijuana stance, Jack Healy reports for The New York Times. Local leaders in Hotchkiss (Best Places map) are considering whether to repeal a vote twice passed that bans recreational and medicinal pot shops in its community. "Next month, Hotchkiss will vote on whether to undo its ban and welcome marijuana shops and the traffic and taxes that could come with them. With cannabis sales soaring to nearly $1 billion across Colorado and big states such as California poised to embrace legalization, wary towns like Hotchkiss are looking at the economics of marijuana and starting to reconsider."

"One mine here in the North Fork Valley has shut down amid a wave of coal bankruptcies and slowdowns, and another has announced that it will go dark," Healy writes. "The closings added to a landscape of layoffs and economic woes concussing mining-dependent towns from West Virginia to Wyoming. And as Hotchkiss searches for a new economic lifeline, some people are asking: What about marijuana?"

Thomas Wills, a town trustee who runs a used-book store and supports allowing some marijuana stores, told Healy, “If we could get it legalized right now, we could create some jobs, and we need the tax revenue. Downtown’s not going to be all flashing green crosses and dancing marijuana leaves. You can make it as unobtrusive as you want."

The vote whether or not to allow pot sales in Hotchkiss has divided the community between those who want the economic impact of sales and those who fear it will lead to a rise in crime and hurt the idyllic lifestyle in the town, Healy writes. "The push to allow marijuana has touched off conversations about the soul of the town. It is tucked into a sunny mountain valley draped with peach orchards and vineyards. But the coal mines up the valley were an economic mainstay for generations, and people say that tourism and boutique agriculture cannot replace good-paying mining jobs. Unemployment here in Delta County is 5.3 percent, higher than the statewide average of 3.2 percent." (Read more)

No comments: