Manitou Springs, Colorado (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

Beyond “Pot for potholes”: Retail cannabis taxes help small Colorado town make big civic improvements

The city's Urban Renewal Authority has seen its budget rise from an average of $34,000 per year in the four years before legalization to $1.2 million in 2016

In advocating “pot for potholes,” recreational marijuana proponents promised a potent new revenue source for tackling a familiar urban headache.

But in Manitou Springs, the only Pikes Peak region community so far to permit recreational pot shops, the cash infusion has meant more than road repairs.

Just more than two years after Manitou opened the first of its two retail pot stores, community leaders credit a booming pot trade for driving a resurgence in the city’s finances. The tax money has helped double Manitou’s general fund after back-to-back natural disasters, bankrolled long-hoped-for improvements in its gritty eastern corridor and eased the financial path toward preparing for future disasters.

“That all came about because of marijuana,” said Marcy Morrison, a longtime Manitou resident and veteran policymaker who co-founded the city’s Urban Renewal Authority. The agency has seen its budget rise from an average of $34,000 per year in the four years before legalization to $1.2 million in 2016 thanks to pot tax collections, paving the way for a series of planned improvements.

Morrison was a vocal opponent of legalizing recreational marijuana sales in Manitou, fearing the health effects on young users and what legal pot would mean for the community’s reputation.┬áNearly three years later, she remains committed to keeping pot out of children’s hands but credits marijuana revenues with breathing new life into urban revitalization efforts.

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