Recent data puts the sales of legal marijuana at $4 billion in 2016. Communities in rural areas are taking advantage of the growing cannabis industry in an effort to create jobs, collect much-needed tax revenue, and support small businesses. Some of these small town were on the verge of economic collapse, but have been buoyed by the “green rush.”
In 2010, the town of Sedgwick was in such an economic depression that they considered unincorporating the town that had been established for over a century. After city officials passed an ordinance that allowed for medical marijuana dispensaries within its borders, their luck changed. At first, older residences were suspicious of how marijuana would actually benefit their community. Sedgwick Alternative Relief was the first dispensary in town, and its success spawned more canna-business including a marijuana-friendly bed and breakfast. Thanks to the tax revenue generated by legal cannabis, the town was able to make critical infrastructure repairs.
This town sits about 75 miles away from the city of Los Angeles. During World War II, Adelanto’s local economy was supported by its proximity to George Air Force Base, and continued to do so until the base was decommissioned in 1993. A for-profit prison opened in 1991, but that industry did little to help and the city collected only $160,000 annually from it. By 2014, the city was looking at $2.6 million in debt. Today, about 40 percent of its residents live below the poverty line. By allowing large-scale marijuana growing, land values have skyrocketed. A property worth $300,000 jumped to $3 million thanks to local ordinances that welcome growers. Today, the city has a $500,000 budget deficit and is looking forward to new construction and businesses, plus an increase in blue-collar jobs.
Pueblo County, Colorado
Pueblo’s unemployment rate of 7.2 percent is one of the highest in the state, much of which is attributed to the decline of the steel industry. The city began welcoming dispensaries, growers and cannabis manufacturers in 2014, and has created about 1300 new jobs. About a third of all new construction was connected to the cannabis industry in 2015. Annually, the city receives about $4 million in tax revenue, which it has used to fund agricultural education, marijuana research, and college scholarships.
An old railroad town in eastern Oregon, Huntington was supported for many years by a nearby cement factory. After it moved out of the area, the small town was struggling to support itself. The town’s decision to allow marijuana businesses was particularly opportunistic: many of the nearby towns do not allow dispensaries, so hundreds of customers per day come from all over the region and wait hours in line at the town’s two dispensaries. This wait means more visitors patronizing local businesses and further contributing to Huntington’s economy.
“This is the place where Bat Masterson was the marshal. This is where Jesse James’ gang did run. This is the place where Doc Holliday was a dentist and owned a brothel. This is the place,” said Cy Michaels, who runs the town’s tourism board. Trinidad is a former coal mining town that sits 11 miles from the New Mexico border, the very picture of a Wild West settlement. Since Colorado legalized marijuana, the town has opened sixteen dispensaries and collects $850,000 in annual tax revenue, some of which will be put towards repairing 140 year-old streets made from brick. As a state border town, many dispensary customers come from nearby New Mexico to purchase cannabis.