- File photo
- If elected, Jiron will keep managing pot shops.
Last year, two ballot initiatives seeking to undo the retail cannabis industry in both the city and county of Pueblo failed. It was the third time voters there indicated that they're OK with pot shops, rejecting a doomsday campaign adamant that legalization is to blame for crime, including gang and other drug activity.
But before the votes rolled in, Pueblo's cannabis industry was a bit spooked. After all, their jobs, businesses and livelihoods were at stake. So, like any rational self-preservationist would do, industry members mobilized to fend off the initiatives. The issue committee, Growing Pueblo's Future, that led the "No on 200" campaign, awakened a constituency that didn't dissipate after the election. Pueblo's pro-cannabis scene has stayed organized and politically aware since. And now, they're putting forward their first candidate for local office.
Ieshia Jiron, 44, has thrown her hat in the ring for Pueblo City Council.
You may remember her from campaign season, when she spoke out about all the jobs that could've been lost by banning retail sales. About 1,300 Pueblo residents, including Jiron, were employed in the cannabis industry at the time (the number is likely higher now that a few new grows have opened up).
Jiron is the general manager of American Pride Growers, the company that operates Leaf on the Mesa, a popular medical and recreational dispensary on U.S. Highway 50 in Pueblo County. She takes great pride not only in the number of jobs that the cannabis industry has created, but also the tax revenue that cannabis sales have generated for local government to spend on college scholarships, park updates and a host of other programs.
American Pride Growers was awarded one of eight retail pot shop licenses made available by the city of Pueblo after the threatening ballot initiative was neutralized in November. So, Jiron and company will be opening a second location in about six months. Even having gone through licensing at the county level, Jiron felt the city's process was "pretty intense" and detailed. Still, she "thought it was great because it showed the city did do its homework about what we should be doing to keep businesses safe." At the same time, she's concerned that the city's licensing fees — set at a minimum of $15,000 annually — are too high.
"With all these other states going online [legalizing recreational weed] — Las Vegas just did and California is getting ready — what worries me is that eventually this bubble is going to burst," Jiron told the Indy. "If we continue to overcharge these licensing fees, we won't be able to afford it and will have to leave ... I want to protect the cannabis industry for the future, especially the little guys."
Jiron expects that opponents may try to use her cannabis background against her in the campaign.
"The anti-cannabis people haven't gone away, and I was nervous about it, but the community has already shown it supports what [the cannabis industry] is doing," she says.
Jiron has mixed opinions about getting stuck with a reputation as a one-issue candidate.
"First and foremost, I'm pro-cannabis and that's what I want to focus on," she says, acknowledging that she's "got a lot of learning to do" about other city issues, like water, energy and opioid addiction. "But I've been picking brains, asking questions and getting ideas from city leaders and other community members ... I'm definitely outside my comfort zone, but I'd rather ask questions than pretend like I know everything."
Jiron is running for one of two open at-large seats. There are two declared candidates in the field so far: former Councilor Dennis Flores and local activist Charlotte Perez. According to the Pueblo Chieftain, "several other people have picked up candidate paperwork for the at-large seats" but haven't yet filed. For this at-large race, voters will choose two candidates. The top two vote-getters get the seats.