Pueblo Pilot Study Disputes Stereotypes About Marijuana Use, Crime And Homelessness

The 404 Dispensary,was one of the first retail marijuana shops to open near downtown Pueblo. 
Photo by Shanna Lewis

 

Adult marijuana use has increased since legalization, according to a pilot research project looking into the impacts of legal marijuana on Pueblo County. But overall, researchers found pot is not to blame for many of the county’s challenges.

Economists with Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Researchfound that marijuana sales netted some $35 million for the Pueblo area in 2016. That’s after factoring in any marijuana-related increase in costs.

Researchers also heard that some homeless people may be drawn to Pueblo for legal pot. But ICR sociologist Timothy McGettigan said Pueblo’s homeless problem is more complicated than that — and the recent increases are due more to rising housing and utility costs.

“The idea that people have been coming to Colorado from out of state in droves, spending their last dime on cannabis and then lining up at soup kitchen queues and at social service agencies is not really accurate,” he said. “The picture is much different than that.”

The first-of-its-kind pilot research was funded largely by local and state marijuana taxes, and was presented to the Pueblo Board of County Commissioners Monday. CSU-Pueblo is the first university to do this type of research.

“This is truly a momentous day,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace.

ICR researchers also found that while crime has increased in Pueblo since legalization, that is more likely due to an increase in population combined with a decrease in law enforcement officers. On top of that, “The lack of clarity on some of the marijuana laws is difficult for them,” said ICR director Rick Kreminski.

Researchers recommend creating better systems for tracking-marijuana related crime. Finding optimal buffer zones around outdoor grow operations to prevent cross-pollination was another topic looked at by the study.

To see highlights from the report visit cpr.org

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