Three marijuana ballot measures will determine if Pueblo continues as a national hotspot for pot production and sales, or whether it tells the rest of the country to avoid the headache.
Only Pueblo and Pueblo County residents can make these decisions, but other Coloradans miss the grand old city they have known and loved as a jewel of the Front Range.
Colorado Springs could not have a better neighbor, through good times and bad.
Of late, times have been difficult in Pueblo.
The median household income is $20,000 below the state average, and more than 20 percent of the population has fallen below the federal poverty line. Meanwhile, a predatory, out-of-state, for-profit monopoly — Black Hills Energy — has passed costs of new state environmental mandates onto customers, who pay some of the highest electric rates in the country.
The community's economic struggles have made pot an enticing prospect. Supporters of legalization argue it creates tax revenues and jobs. Opponents, who have launched city and county measures to forbid recreational production and sales, have a different story.
"We've got more crime. We've got more people on the street. Our hospitals are filled with people," said property manager Jason White, as quoted in a story by The Boston Globe.
White said legalization has proved a net economic negative, with revenues "going to the overwhelmed homeless shelters, hospitals, and the police."
Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor, with 30 years in law enforcement, agrees and plans to vote against legalized pot.
"It's almost the perfect storm," Taylor told the Globe. "Inviting the industry here brings with it the collateral issues that we're seeing now in Pueblo. Whether it be increased emergency room visits, increasing crime, nuisance crimes."
Taylor said legalization has made Pueblo County a hub of black market marijuana production and distribution to other states.
One does not need expert testimony to know legal recreational pot has attracted swarms of young homeless people to Pueblo. Any visitor to the city can see it.
"I don't mean your typical down-and-out guy in his 60s with a bottle," said Paula McPheeters, who heads the Pueblo County measure to ban production and sales. "I'm talking 20-somethings. And that's what really struck me: What are they doing here?"
New data show pot legalization as an insidious policy failure. Pot legalization has driven Colorado's youth consumption of the drug 74 percent higher than the national average, as reported by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The year pot retail stores opened, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 32 percent; THC-related hospitalizations increased 38 percent; Colorado's college-aged population used the drug at a rate 54 percent higher than the national average.
Ballot Question 2B asks voters to allow commercial recreational marijuana retail in the city limits, reversing a moratorium. We hope voters say "no."
We hope they vote "yes" on Issue 300, which would reaffirm the moratorium and ban recreational retail sales.
County issue 200 would close retail marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas of the county by Oct. 31 of next year. We hope voters say "yes."
We offer this as the friendly suggestion of friends and neighbors. Pueblo is a grand city, wise and mature, and an important element of Colorado's character, image and charm. A recreational drug has not helped the community through this tough time and might be making things worse. Consider stopping the commercial promotion of getting stoned at the potential cost of success in life.