Pueblo Defeats Measure to Eliminate Retail Pot, Talks Marijuana Museum

A margin of 7,600 votes determined whether the retail marijuana market in Pueblo County would survive this election.

Question 200 appeared on the county ballot after opposition groups campaigned against the legal marijuana industry. If passed, 200 would have eliminated the cultivation of recreational marijuana, ended retail sales, closed existing cannabis businesses and left the 1,300 people working in the industry unemployed.

The measure was ultimately defeated, but computer glitches postponed the announcement by more than five hours, and the county clerk eventually called it quits around 10:30 p.m.

"Pueblo County may be the only county in the country where votes did (not get) counted tonight," Jim Parco, a No on 200 spokesman, said in a message sent to reporters Tuesday night.

The computer issues were resolved, and numbers started coming in during the early hours of the morning, but as of 9:30 a.m. November 9, results were still being calculated. The final count had 36,102 votes against the measure, while 28,502 supported it.

There are more than 154 licensed cannabis businesses in the county, according to the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners. Of those 154 businesses, there are 122 retail cultivations, 32 product manufactures, and ten retail stores, which make up the $2.2 million in tax revenue and contributed $423,000 in property taxes since legalization passed.

Following the defeat of the measure, Parco and a citizens-led group of Pueblo residents announced plans to build the National Marijuana Museum in Pueblo.

“The citizens of Pueblo County have spoken, and their message is clear," Parco said in a statement. "They have seen the positive impacts that the regulated, retail marijuana industry has had in Pueblo County. We were the first to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use retail marijuana, and now the first to decisively defeat prohibitionists in a do-over vote. With our community’s rich history tied to marijuana, it's only fitting that the National Marijuana Museum should be located here — to be owned by the people, for the people.”

A steering committee has already formed, with Branson Haney, owner of Legacy Homes of Pueblo, as the chair.

"With Pueblo County as the leader in the national legalization effort, it is now time to lead the effort on improving education and knowledge of marijuana’s rich history — scientifically, socially and culturally. And we’re going to do it right here in Pueblo, Colorado," Haney says in a statement.

The group has yet to decide on an exact location for the museum, but organizers hope it will open the summer of 2018, according to Parco.
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.