There are about 4.6 million square feet of marijuana gardens dotting the dusty landscape in Pueblo County.
Greenhouses climb into the sky in a county that also has some of the largest licensed outdoor grow facilities in the country.
Original article published in the Pueblo Chieftain email@example.com
Since marijuana became legal in 2012, Pueblo County has licensed 143 legal marijuana cultivations, and another 55 are pending. The area has been called the Napa Valley of the pot industry.
Roughly $6 million of Pueblo County’s $88 million general fund is supported by cannabis tax revenues.
The first medical marijuana cultivation was approved in Pueblo County in August 2012. The first retail cultivation license was approved less than two years later, in January 2014.
Numbers provided by Pueblo County indicate there are 88 licensed indoor facilities for retail cultivation and 27 for outdoor operations.
On the medical side, there are 22 approved indoor cultivations and six outdoor licenses.
The square footage of outdoor recreational pot farms is 3,000,450. Outdoor medical marijuana grows account for 858,909 square feet.
Indoor operations include a total of 801,854 square feet, which amounts to 658,029 square feet for recreational marijuana facilities and 143,825 square feet for medical marijuana operations.
Those numbers can increase if pending license applications are granted.
There are 39 indoor recreational grow licenses pending and five medical growing operation licenses pending, according to county officials. If approved, that would add another 289,952 square feet to the indoor pot farm industries.
County officials said there are 10 outdoor marijuana cultivation licenses pending and one outdoor medical marijuana cultivation application pending. Together, that would be a total of 1,299,047 square feet.
That amounts to 1.5 million square feet for outdoor recreational operations and 240,000 square feet for outdoor medical pot farms.
Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace said that Pueblo has become a cultivation wholesale hub in the Colorado cannabis industry.
“Roughly half of all construction (in the county) is directly attributed to cannabis,” he said. “Some individual operators have spent over $10 million on capital construction. So we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of outside investment into Pueblo’s economy.
“Many of the biggest operations are being built by former Fortune 500 executives. These are very sophisticated corporate-minded people.”
Former black market dealers cannot survive in the legal marketplace, said Pace.
“The sheer number of private jets flying into Pueblo Municipal Airport is unbelievable. More than one NBA team owner and several NFL players now have visited Pueblo because of cannabis,” he said
“We’re talking about thousands of jobs created here in the wholesale primary-job space. None of these businesses received economic incentives. We didn’t have to provide tax breaks or public handouts.”
Pace said the economic driver is very significant.
“If these weren’t cannabis-related jobs, every politician and economic development leader would be thanking these businesses.
“They’ve come because of our climate, work force, available land and business-friendly regulations,” Pace said.
County officials noted that the city has an 8 percent excise tax on grows, while the county rate is 3 percent. Officials said the city is mostly land-locked and does not have agricultural zoned districts, which can be used for outdoor grows. The city also has more bureaucratic regulations for all construction permits.
Although there is no limit to the amount of cultivation operation licenses that can be approved, the county has placed a moratorium on retail marijuana cultivation and other marijuana items. That resolution was passed Dec. 21, 2016. The moratorium expires April 30, unless it’s extended by the Board of County Commissioners.
The commissioners recently met with county planning staff and asked for a resolution to be brought to the board that would extend the moratorium to Dec. 15.
“I’m proud to have been the lead writing these regulations, which have been key for this development,” said Pace. “My reward comes from knowing that hundreds of millions have been invested and thousands of jobs created because I was willing to take a stand.
“These licensed cultivations have very little public interface, so they don’t have signage or advertising: They’re just creating jobs.”
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