Banning retail/recreational marijuana businesses in Pueblo County would negatively affect thousands of lives and put hundreds of people out of work, leaving many unable to provide for themselves and their families. Banning these establishments in the city would also have negative effects on the economy and on hundreds of graduates in Pueblo that would miss out on scholarships funded by the tax revenue generated from retail marijuana establishments.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education announced in May that the 2015-16 Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative Matching Student Scholarship grant was approved. The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation will be administering the Pueblo County Scholarship utilizing funds generated from; you guessed it excise tax dollars from legal recreational cannabis sales. This fund will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to high school graduates in the county. If recreational marijuana businesses are no longer able to operate in the city, these scholarships will not be possible.

If this isn’t bad enough, let’s take a look at the amount of tax revenue that would be lost should the petition to ban recreational marijuana businesses in the city gain enough support from voters. In 2015 Pueblo West received roughly $200,000 in funds from the county thanks to the tax revenue received from retail marijuana sales, not medical marijuana sales.  Pueblo County as a whole netted $1.63 MILLION in revenue last year and expects to receive an additional $3.5 MILLION annually thanks to the excise tax that applies to only recreational/retail marijuana sales. This money will be utilized for many public services including road construction, education, health and marijuana regulation enforcement among others. Should retail sales of marijuana be banned in the county this money will not be available.

Should the petition being led by Pueblo Attorney Dan Oldenburg and the Owner of Kenny G’s Quality Trees, Kenny Gierhart gain enough support from voters in the county, the individuals that currently purchase cannabis in retail dispensaries in the country will be forced to go back to the black market or shop in other cities such as Colorado Springs or Trinidad.

If this petition succeeds, it will not prevent consumers from obtaining or possessing marijuana. It will strengthen the black market once again, cost people their livelihoods, take scholarships from high school graduates and send millions of dollars in tax revenue to other counties.

Cannabis is one of the safest things on this planet. It has never killed a single person, ever. You can’t even say that about peanuts which are the cause of approximately 75-100 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. Not only is it safe and natural, it also provides hope where traditional pharmaceuticals have failed. Just recently a study was released that concluded there is little to no impairment to one’s ability to drive while under the influence of marijuana. It is proven to be hundreds of times safer than alcohol, yet if this ban were to take place individuals over the age of 21 could still walk into a bar and have a beer and no one will blink an eye. The truth is, whether this petition succeeds or not, cannabis is here to stay in Pueblo County.

The question you must ask yourself is will you support the black market or the legal, regulated and effective market that Pueblo voters have already shown their support for and voted to allow?

Whether you are a cannabis consumer or not, you have to admit that a legal and regulated market offers many benefits for Pueblo County, and I urge you not to sign the No-Pot Petition being circulated and to vote no should it reach the November ballot.

By: Ashley Priest

Marijuana Writers