Impact of Legal Cannabis….one Coloradans perspective

By Todd Mitchem

In early 2012, just before the state of Colorado voted to legalize full recreational cannabis, the cost of industrial real estate in the Denver area sat at just below $70 per square foot, which was a six-year low.  Just this past March 2015 the rate was at an all time high of $105 a square foot!*  That’s a remarkable growth in less than three years for any market. The catalyst rest mainly on the sudden need for large industrial facilities that could house the many new grow operations needed to support demand for legalized cannabis production. 

Over the course of the same three years whole areas of the Denver metro area like Colfax avenue were complete revitalized due to the carefully placed dispensary operations in those areas.  For the first time ever a new shopping center, Starbucks, Drycleaner and other businesses suddenly sprung up in the same area. Suddenly an area of the city hardest hit by the drug war of the past was born again.  It was safe and thriving.  All because of legal weed.

What about jobs? Currently today the cannabis industry in Colorado supports over 14,000 jobs and growing according to the Depart of Excise and License.  This number does not account for the countless jobs created at the above mentioned businesses, contractors, carpenters, firefighters needed to go out and inspect the facilities and the list goes on and on.  If you run the numbers, with an average salary of $45k annually those jobs equal roughly $630 million in annual income generated in Colorado alone.

I know often the skeptics will attempt to show the limited downsides to cannabis.  They will argue that teen can get access to weed much easier now or that children can accidently ingest the products.  People against the large scale growth of cannabis will often push back with driving while impaired issues or a slew of other cultural related potential pitfalls that can occur.  

What I know as a Denver, Colorado citizen is that the sky did not fall.  Teen use is down, companies like my friends at Incredibles are working around the clock to educate consumers about edible safety and labels.  Fatal driving accidents are down. Violent crimes are down.  The police are now pivoting to more serious crimes involving dangerous drugs like heroin which nearly killed a sister of mine.  All of these are valid challenges, but actually according to the Denver Post, teen use is down in Denver.  And while kids may accidentally ingest small amounts of cannabis, there have not been any reports of child related death as a result.  (See my other blog HERE about parenting concerns and kids) 

The industry does need to continue to build standards, process and step up it’s game around consumer safety.  (The Coalition for Responsible Cannabis) We all need to be better educated for the sake of our children.  But as I watch the social network grow on High There! I am impressed at how many thoughtful, smart, non-judgmental people are simply wanting to learn more about this plant and get connected to each other to share experiences.  We are at the forefront of Weed 2.0, the next generation of cannabis, and I for one can see what’s possible.