PUEBLO, Colo. — Four years ago, this town in the plains of southern Colorado happily joined with the rest of the state in legalizing recreational use of marijuana. In a land of plentiful sunshine, rolling farmland and underused industrial space, one of the state’s most cannabis-friendly communities bloomed.
Too friendly, some people think. With more than 200 marijuana-related businesses having opened in and around Pueblo, there’s a backlash against the economic and cultural changes that have come with being what supporters envision as Colorado’s Wine Country of weed.
It’s a preview, perhaps, of what could happen in California if voters approve Proposition 64 on Nov. 8. Legalizing recreational marijuana is a state issue, but the nuts and bolts of how it’s implemented — how many pot businesses are allowed, and where they’re allowed — is very much up to the locals.
Pueblo County backed legalized marijuana in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote. But after seeing how it played out, some dismayed residents qualified a county ballot measure that would ban new recreational cannabis businesses and growing operations and close existing ones. Home-growing and medical marijuana operations would still be legal.
Prop. 64 would allow local jurisdictions in California to ban cannabis businesses. So did Colorado’s legalization — and roughly two-thirds of its 64 counties and about three-quarters of its cities have some sort of prohibition on recreational sales.
Jim Parco, a Colorado College economics professor and Pueblo dispensary owner at the forefront of the pro-legalization group Growing Pueblo’s Future, says bringing prohibition back to Pueblo would have national implications — and put a lot of his neighbors out of work.
“This is the domino. We are the first domino,” said Parco, whose new dispensary sits on two acres next to the family farm where he grew up. “If