Colorado Town that Initially Refused Marijuana Now Reconsidering To Revive Economy

Economic hard times have small mining towns in Colorado like Hotchkiss reconsidering their ban on adult use marijuana. To help counter the economic woes following a slowdown in coal mining, small mining towns in North Fork Valley, Colorado, are reconsidering their ban on marijuana, the New York Times is reporting. After Colorado voters embraced legalizing adult use of marijuana statewide in 2012, local leaders in small towns like Hotchkiss quickly refused the change, opting instead to ban marijuana due to concerns over increased crime. Now that local mines have shut down, causing layoffs and economic hardships, Hotchkiss and several other mountain towns are considering whether embracing marijuana could help them out of their financial woes. Unemployment in Hotchkiss’ Delta County is 5.3 percent, reports the New York Times, considerably higher than the 3.2 percent statewide average. “If we could get it legalized right now, we could create some jobs, and we need the tax revenue,” said Thomas Wills, a Hotchkiss town trustee and owner of a used book shop. “Downtown’s not going to be all flashing green crosses and dancing marijuana leaves. You can make it as unobtrusive as you want.” “People have been tightening the belt or just plain moving away,” said Robbie Winne, who runs a secondhand clothing shop in Hotchkiss. The community of Hotchkiss has likely taken notice of the millions of dollars being raised through marijuana taxes and license fees elsewhere in Colorado. In 2015, the state generated about $135 million in cannabis taxes and license fees from over $996 million in sales. The state was able to allocate $40 million to school construction and $12 million to youth and substance-abuse programs. Throughout the United States, legal marijuana sales in 2016 are expected to reach $6.7 billion. Late last year, the southern Colorado town of Walsenburg was able to make a step towards economic recovery following the closing of local mines through a development deal to build a 332-acre campus for growing, processing, and distributing cannabis. The campus is expected to create approximately 1,000 total direct and indirect jobs once it’s fully developed. “We’re dying,” said Mary Hockenbery, supporter of the Hotchkiss marijuana initiative and owner of a local art gallery. “This town needs an infusion of cash. Anything will help.” Town leaders in Hotchkiss will decide whether to legalize adult use of marijuana in a vote next month. Hotchkiss, self-proclaimed as “the friendliest town around,” has a population of approximately 1,000. With its peach orchards and vineyards, it’s a popular place for tourism. Lifting the ban would allow for marijuana stores and would approve wholesale marijuana growers, thereby offering the town another source of income beyond tourism and boutique agriculture.]]>