Voters in the city and county of Pueblo were deciding on measures that would repeal the southern Colorado community's legal marijuana industry. Pictured: A truck passes by a field filled with marijuana plants in Pueblo County on Sept. 3, 2016. Pueblo County is one of the few places in Colorado that allows for outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation, such as Los Sueños Farms LLC. The 36 acres that make up Los Sueños Farms are leased to a number of Colorado cannabis businesses. (Vince Chandler, The Denver Post)

Pueblo voters reject proposals to shut down existing marijuana businesses

Residents in Pueblo County, Colo., want to keep their community’s burgeoning recreational marijuana industry.

Pueblo County’s voting results were delayed for most of the night Tuesday, but when the numbers started filing in, it appeared that residents were leaning toward maintaining recreational marijuana laws there.

Pueblo County ballot Question 200 had proposed a repeal of ordinances allowing recreational marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing and retail sales and would have forced the closure of existing businesses. By 1 p.m. MST Wednesday, Question 200 had 36,102 votes against, or nearly 56 percent, and 28,502 votes for, or 44 percent.

A similar measure, Question 300, was put before residents in the city of Pueblo, which is a home-rule municipality. Question 300 had 22,892 votes against, or 59 percent, and 15,913 votes for, or 41 percent, according to unofficial Pueblo County election results.

More on Pueblo marijuana

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As of the 2:14 a.m. update, there were 123,191 ballots cast in Pueblo County and, as of 9:30 a.m., additional ballots were still being counted. The voter turnout has already surpassed that of the 2012 election, in which 77,000 ballots were cast in Pueblo, said Paris Carmichael, spokeswoman for the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners.

And based on the initial results, marijuana was a significant issue for voters. Question 200 had the highest vote count among other ballot issues, those cast for state amendments as well as county commissioners, according to a review of initial election results.

Marijuana has been viewed by both those in the industry as well as Pueblo County commissioners as a potential boon for an economy that has slogged along in recent decades.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 154 licensed businesses — 122 retail marijuana cultivations, 32 marijuana product manufacturers and 10 retail stores, according to information released Wednesday morning by the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners. Those businesses generated $2.2 million in tax revenue, contributed $423,000 in property taxes, employed upward of 1,000 people, and resulted for $14.6 million in building expenditures, according to the county commissioners.

Proponents of Question 200 have said that “Pueblo is not safer or healthier with a growing marijuana industry promoting and selling a harmful drug.” The Question 200 supporters said the industry has led to an increase in the community’s transient population, contributed to higher rates of crime, caused increases in youth use rates and created an unsavory reputation.