A train passed by staked cannabis plants that fill a field at Los Sueños Farms LLC in Pueblo County in Colorado on Sept. 3, 2016. Units on the farm are leased to a number of Colorado cannabis businesses for outdoor cultivation. (Vince Chandler, The Denver Post)

What you need to know about the effort to ban retail weed in this Colorado county

After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, the industry — notably the cultivation and processing — was welcomed with open arms by some members of Pueblo County’s governance.

Pueblo’s plentiful sunlight and inexpensive land made the southern Colorado municipality a hotbed for outdoor cultivation facilities. Eyeing the potential research needs in this area, Pueblo City Council handed CBD Biosciences an $8 million incentive to build a hemp-oil processing plant.

Cannabis was viewed as one of several sectors that could help turn around Pueblo’s sluggish economy.

“We’ve been stagnant for decades,” says Jim Parco, a Pueblo native and dispensary owner. “We are on the heels of an economic boom now. We are bringing $3.5 million of tax revenue into our community right now, we have these 1,300 people that are employed.”

Parco says the burgeoning industry is at risk because of Pueblo County Ballot Question 200. If approved by voters on Nov. 8, all recreational marijuana facilities and retailers in the county would have to shutter within the next year.

“When you look at the ballot measure, it basically is getting rid of all the economic benefit, destroying 1,300 jobs, but it does nothing with respect to marijuana,” Parco says.

Parco joins Cannabist editor-in-chief Ricardo Baca on The Cannabist Show to share his opposition to the ballot proposal. Proponents of the measure were invited to appear on the show but declined, stating that they were unable to make the drive north to Denver and instead offered to provide comments via telephone or e-mail.

Parco responds to concerns raised by Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo — that legalization has caused an increase in the region’s transient population, led to a surge in crime, spurred illegal cultivation activity and stressed county resources — and counters that he thinks there may be bigger motivations at play.

“Prohibitionists realize that if they can turn back legalization in Pueblo, this may become a viable prohibitionist strategy to use elsewhere,” he says.

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