Firing up the 
De Beque economy

Retail marijuana stores will be legal in at least one community in Mesa County, thanks to municipal elections Tuesday, but residents of the Grand Valley may still have to drive some distance to legally purchase pot from a store.

Voters in De Beque approved, by a 69-65 vote margin, a measure to allow retail marijuana outlets to operate within the town’s boundaries. Voters in Fruita and Collbran both rejected ballot measures that would have allowed their communities to move toward legalization of marijuana outlets.

We at The Daily Sentinel have had our reservations about legalizing recreational marijuana, and we opposed the 2012 statewide ballot measure that legalized pot and established the framework for allowing retail marijuana stores.

But we also believe that ballot measure, Amendment 64, was right to leave the decision to voters or elected representatives in each community to determine whether to allow the retail stores.

We also recognize there is a considerable amount of money associated with legalized marijuana, both in tax revenue for communities that approve the retail outlets and in so-called pot tourism — people from outside a community who may visit to purchase marijuana but also spend money on other things while they’re visiting.

For a town such as De Beque, which has been struggling more than most with the downturn in the energy industry, such economic considerations are important. It’s why leaders of that community are also examining the possibility of winning approval for casino gambling in the town.

Voters of De Beque have spoken, even if by a narrow margin, to say they want to give legalized marijuana a try.

There’s no word yet on whether someone is prepared to open a retail pot shop in the tiny town, but if people do, De Beque could become a sort of cultural petri dish regarding the future of the marijuana industry.

It is far different than the ski resorts such as Telluride and Breckenridge that have approved retail marijuana shops because it doesn’t have a built-in customer base of young ski enthusiasts who are, for the most part, already amenable to marijuana.

Nor does De Beque have the large population base of a place like Denver, where multiple marijuana shops are already operating and, according to preliminary reports, prospering.

So, can retail marijuana do well in a small, relatively isolated, non-resort community?

If so, what will the economic impacts be? And what sort of law-enforcement problems, educational issues and other cultural impacts will accompany the business?

We wish residents of De Beque the best as they begin to seek answers to these questions and continue to look for means to pull their community up by its economic bootstraps.


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