Researchers have found that legal cannabis has positively impacted the economy of Pueblo County in Colorado.
Colorado State University-Pueblo has released the findings of a new study that is considered to be the first of its kind. While most studies that analyze the impact of legal cannabis concentrate only on tax revenues or revenues for dispensaries, the researchers at Colorado examined many other social factors including the rate of homelessness, crime statistics, new construction, revenues, and overall cannabis use.
From a financial standpoint, the report concluded that the cannabis industry contributed $58m to the county in 2016. However, even after factoring in the cost of regulation and added law enforcement costs, the net impact of legal cannabis in Pueblo County for 2016 was $35m. Researchers suggest that the net impact of legal cananbis is likely to reach $100m by 2021.
Other counties and municipalities may want to consider legalization as a way to jumpstart their economy.
“When compared to other similar communities in states where cannabis is not legal in any form, Pueblo appears to be doing better on a number of measures,” study researchers stated.
The report, which is just over 200 pages, also concluded that there was no link between legal cannabis and degrading social norms in Pueblo County.
“We found no evidence that poverty has either increased or decreased in Pueblo as a result of cannabis legalization,” the report’s authors write.
Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace has long embraced the positive economic impact of legalizing cannabis. He was pleased with the report from the University of Colorado.
“More than two dozen Ph.D.s worked on this,” he said just after the report was revealed at a commissioners’ meeting. “It’s really the first of its kind, a really all-inclusive look at cannabis legalization in a community.”
Pace is hoping to see more data and feels the estimates of legal cannabis’ impact are conservative as they do not take into account the impact of wholesale cannabis sales. Pueblo County has a large scale cannabis production center.
“The good news for the citizens of Colorado,” Pace said, “is this has been a net positive for our community.”
While estimates vary, most financial analysts predict the cannabis industry will continue to rise for the next decade and could eventually become a $50 billion industry in the United States by 2026.