“1976 Little Construction Vehicles” by JD Hancock, Creative Commons, via Flickr.
“One could say that cannabis is driving our economic recovery in Pueblo,” Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace
says in a press release touting new data out of the Pueblo Regional Building Department. “It's often hard to provide objective numbers. In this case, we have very hard numbers; and the result is staggering.”
Last year, 228 commercial building permits were issued in Pueblo for the city and county. Of those, 90 were related to the cannabis industry. That’s just about 40 percent. The impact was especially significant in Pueblo County, where nearly 65 percent of all commercial building permits (74 of 115) were cannabis-related.
Pueblo was still reeling from the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s when the recession hit, and while other Front Range cities have somewhat bounced back since the 2008 crash, Pueblo’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high.
The region has seen some growth in the energy and manufacturing sectors, but nothing that rivals the prominence steel once had. However, that might be changing now.
The city of Pueblo has no recreational dispensaries and just one medical marijuana center inside the city limits. Unincorporated Pueblo county has 13 recreational shops. So the retail side of the industry isn’t exactly booming, but all the pot shops up north need supply, and that’s where Pueblo comes in.
According to statistics recently released by the county, virtually all cannabis-related construction last year was for cultivations and infused products manufacturers. County voters approved an excise tax on cultivation that funds capital improvement projects and higher education scholarships in 2015.
“If cannabis is legal, and someone is going to make their community wealthy off of it, why shouldn’t it be Pueblo?” Pace asks in the press release. “We’ve struggled too long, our agricultural community has faced constant assaults on their water, we deserve this economic shot in the arm.”