Our View: Pot experiment seems to be working | SteamboatToday.com
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Our View: Pot experiment seems to be working

At issue:

Steamboat Springs and Colorado are marking the first anniversary of legal marijuana.

Our View:

The multi-million dollar industry is growing, tourism numbers are strong and Steamboat Springs’ family friendly persona seem unaffected by the presence of legalized pot.

After the first full year of legalized retail sales of marijuana in Steamboat Springs, we’ve seen that even in its infancy, it’s a multi-million dollar industry that will only grow. And we’ve been unable to detect any alarming signs that weed is going to undermine Steamboat’s stature as a wholesome place to live and visit.

At issue:

Steamboat Springs and Colorado are marking the first anniversary of legal marijuana.



Our View:

The multi-million dollar industry is growing, tourism numbers are strong and Steamboat Springs’ family friendly persona seem unaffected by the presence of legalized pot.



Steamboat Today reported Feb. 13 that pot shops here sold $6.8 million worth of recreational and medical product in 2014 – a first-year tally that tells us the industry has plenty of potential to grow.

From the newspaper’s first of five planned story packages titled Reefer Review and examining the pot industry here, we learned that the $271,901 in marijuana-driven sales tax collected by the city was less than half that generated by liquor stores. But this is an industry still in its infancy, and anecdotal evidence of how well it seems to have blended into tourism, leads us to think that over the longer term, marijuana sales can add an increment to the local year-round economy without causing alarming social ills.

Of the three retail pot shops allowed to operate here, just one was open for all of 2014, and the third just recently opened. In a couple of years, those stores will have expanded their customer base, and with growing public acceptance, their business activity will likely grow. All three stores are operating on the western margins of the city, well removed from the shopping district frequented by vacationers, and that too is likely to change over time.

Plus, the economic benefits of pot sales are not limited to sales tax collections in Steamboat Springs. The marijuana stores and growing facilities here, together with the growing facilities that have emerged in Oak Creek, are creating a new category of employment with not insignificant payrolls turning over in the local economy. We’ve received reports that the housing market in Oak Creek has been revived by demand from employees of marijuana-growing facilities.

Steamboat Springs City Council is tentatively planning to revisit the way it oversees the industry, and we wonder how long it will be before pot shops are afforded the same opportunity that liquor stores are extended — the ability to open a store in the downtown commercial district with the granting of a conditional use permit.

State tourism officials told Steamboat Today this month that they do not attribute burgeoning tourism numbers to the availability of legal pot, but we couldn’t help notice the jump in traffic during late December and early January at one marijuana retail outlet that is highly visible from U.S. Highway 40. Tourism officials haven’t noticed a harmful negative reaction from travelers either. We don’t think there’s any need to market pot tourism, nor would we advise a “Rocky Mountain High” campaign.

With all of that in mind, we think the cautious route city officials have taken to permitting retail pot stores, allowing no more than three retail outlets and effectively keeping them in low-key locations, has probably served the industry well. It gave it a chance to take root here without inspiring a backlash while the community continues to ask important social questions about how youth, families and institutions, including schools, law enforcement and the judicial system may have been impacted.

To date, we haven’t learned of any significant problems related to retail sales of marijuana. However, we have learned from our reporting that without any promotion, pot-themed tourist souvenirs, like T-shirts and ironically, shot glasses, are beginning to out-sell more traditional souvenirs of Steamboat.


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