Marijuana: Pueblo County approves grow facility despite water rights complaints

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Despite a majority of the state voting to make marijuana legal for medicinal and recreational use, there are still Coloradans who do not want to see the plant manufactured or used in their vicinity. As a result, a multitude of cities have placed bans on medicinal and recreational businesses, but last week Pueblo County residents came up with a new reason for why they did not want a grow operation in their area: water rights.

Denver's Metro Cannabis Inc. is planning on starting a grow facility on a 700-acre plot it purchased -- along with water rights -- 25 miles east of Pueblo.

And last week the Pueblo Board of County Commissioners approved its application to do so by a unanimous vote -- but angry residents protested.

"These folks would not be against cultivating any other product," County Commissioner Sal Pace says. "They have a personal objection to marijuana."

The area is highly rural and depends on agriculture for sustenance, so water rights are a huge concern for many residents. And some of those residents do not think that water rights should not be used for marijuana. The commissioners did not have this view when voting on the application, though.

According to Pace, the commissioners do not regulate what the water in the county is used for, but only ensure that it is obtained and used in a legal manner. Marijuana agriculture is completely legal at the state level, and is also allowed in Pueblo County -- this is just the first cannabis facility in this particular part of it.

"There were some residents who are neighboring the location of the grow operation who are generally opposed to marijuana," Pace says. "From our perspective, the debate about marijuana is a decided debate. The state and county have spoken twice."

Pace says the nearest neighbor of the grow facility is a quarter of a mile away; that neighbor supports the operation. However, another neighbors located about a mile away is opposed to the project.

Metro Cannabis has not returned Westword's calls. According to Pace, the company plans on spending $6 million to develop the land, and hopes to open the grow facility sometime this fall. (See our 2010 review of the dispensary.)

"There will be construction jobs, there will be jobs cultivating at the facility and as their property values increase, that will be a benefit to our property taxes in the county," Pace says.

Pace says the tax revenue and the fact that the majority of the county voted for Amendment 64 both factored into accepting Metro Cannabis's application.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana Enforcement Division head Laura Harris's retirement timing "poor to awful"?."

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