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Pueblo County Cannabis Impact Study

Throughout 2017, the Institute of Cannabis Research conducted a study on the impact of local legalization of recreational cannabis within Pueblo County. Commissioned by Pueblo County, the research included an analysis of social and economic impacts, water and power usage impacts, and optimal buffer zones between sites that grow low THC (hemp) and high THC (legally approved recreational or medical) cannabis.

In addition to the principal investigators listed below, numerous faculty from other departments were involved as co-principal investigators. A research technical report was provided to Pueblo County in December 2017, and a presentation was made to the Pueblo Board of County Commissioners in March 2018.

Topics and Principal Investigators

A Study of the Local Social and Economic Impacts of Legal Cannabis, Since the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana, on Residents of Pueblo County, Colorado
Social Impact Principal Investigators: Dr. Tim McGettigan, Sociology, and Dr. Joe Franta, Nursing
Economic Impact Principal Investigators: Dr. Michael Wakefield and Dr. Aun Hassan, Hasan School of Business

This project studied the social impact of legalized cannabis and addressed areas including but not limited to demographics, poverty, income, housing, education, jobs, law enforcement, public health, and attitudes. To the extent possible, all data was disaggregated by age, gender, ethnicity, and educational level; and effects were separated due to medical marijuana from recreational marijuana.

  • Demographics: changes in demographic composition of Pueblo County
  • Poverty, income, and housing: changes in income levels, redistribution of income, changes in housing availability and cost, and impact on homeless population levels
  • Education: impact on students, educators, and school districts
  • Jobs: changes in types of employment opportunities and employment availability
  • Law enforcement: court/legal system issues, such as how have law enforcement and courts handled issues including conflicts between or within federal, state, and local laws; and changes in crime rates, probation services, and youth corrections
  • Public health, health care, and social services: impact on health systems, services providers in the health care industry, and social services; and changes in drug use including opioids
  • Attitudes: regarding cannabis’ impact on community, sub-divided among certain demographic groups

The economic impact component of this project quantified in economic terms the costs and benefits and provided thoughtful projections of these economic impacts five years into the future. Focus areas included but were not limited to job creation, business/economic growth, and various increased costs.

  • Economic benefits: tax receipts, job creation, real estate inflation, new commercial construction, increased visitation, and general business/economic growth
  • Economic costs: increased cost to law enforcement, city and county detention, medical care, welfare assistance, child and family services, public education, insurance (health, automobile, liability, etc); and general social/governmental oversight

Water and Energy Use from Facilities that Grow Cannabis in Pueblo County, Colorado State University Pueblo
Principal Investigators: Dr. Jane Fraser and Dr. Leonardo Bedoya Valencia, Engineering

This project studied the impact of legalization of recreational cannabis on water and energy use in Pueblo County in two stages. The first stage included collecting and analyzing data on how much energy and water are needed to grow cannabis. The second state included creating a systems dynamics model to project the effects under different scenarios. The model developed allowed for water and energy consumption comparisons between indoor and outdoor growing facilities.

Estimates of water and energy use to grow cannabis vary greatly; some variation is explainable by the strain, time of year, environment (indoors or outdoors), and other parameters. Many estimates are done where growing is illegal, so must be inferred. More data are becoming available from locally legal grow operations but still was reviewed carefully for applicability in Pueblo County.

This project collected data from growers in Pueblo County and elsewhere in Colorado, State of Colorado sources such as the Colorado Energy Office, sources in Pueblo County such as Black Hills Energy and Board of Water Works of Pueblo. Data was analyzed for credibility and consistency and for the effect of parameters on resource usage.

Energy and water are important resources required in the operation of any supply chain system. For Pueblo County, it was particularly important to analyze the impact in the consumption of these resources of a newly developed supply chain system.

Recommendations on Buffer Zone Sizes to Reduce Likelihood of Cross-Contamination between Operations that Grow Low THC Cannabis (Industrial Hemp) and High THC Cannabis in Pueblo, Colorado
Principal Investigator: Dr. Brian Vanden Heuvel, Biology

This project studied the potential for cross-contamination through pollen movement between low and high THC cannabis. Pollen travel distances are most likely controlled by the size and shape of pollen, release height, and overall climate conditions at time of release. This project focused on the predicted movement based on past studies of other species.


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