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Pueblo County Cannabis Impact Study

2017 Cannabis Impact Study Commissioned by Pueblo County, Colorado

Throughout 2017, the Institute of Cannabis Research will be conducting a study on the impact of local legalization of recreational cannabis within Pueblo County. The research will include an analysis of the 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.

Although seven CSU-Pueblo faculty from five different disciplines are the principal investigators for the study, numerous faculty from other departments will also be involved as co-principal investigators. The technical report on the research will be provided to Pueblo County in December, 2017.

Principal Investigators
Social Impact Dr. Tim McGettigan, Sociology, Dr. Joe Franta, Nursing
Economic Impact Dr. Michael Wakefield, Dr. Aun Hassan, Hasan School of Business
Water and Power Usage Dr. Jane Fraser, Dr. Leonardo Bedoya Valencia, Engineering
Optimal Buffer Zones at Grow Sites Dr. Brian Vanden Heuvel, Biology

A Study of the Local Social and Economic Impacts of Legal Cannabis, Since the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana, on Residents of Pueblo County, Colorado

This project will study the social impact of legalized cannabis and will address areas that include, but are not limited to:

  • 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, 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; changes in crime rates, probation services, youth corrections.
  • Public health, health care and social services: impact on health systems, service providers in the health care industry, social services and changes in drug use including opioids.
  • Attitudes regarding cannabis’ impact on community, sub-divided among certain demographic groups.

The depth of analysis will depend in part on the availability of existing reliable and valid data along with the ability to collect valid and reliable data. To the extent possible, all data will be disaggregated by age (or at least youth/juvenile vs adults vs elderly), gender, ethnicity, and educational level; and attempts will be made to separate effects due to medical marijuana from recreational marijuana.

The economic impact component of this research will quantify in economic terms the costs and benefits and provide thoughtful projections of these economic impacts five years into the future.

While the focus of the study is Pueblo County, by necessity, impacts in Pueblo City may also be considered. The study will include, but are not limited to:

  • Economic benefits of the legalization of Cannabis such as tax receipts, job creation, real estate inflation, new commercial construction, increased visitation and general business/economic growth.
  • Economic costs of the legalization of cannabis such as 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 and other areas identified by the social impact study group.
  • Discussion and conclusions regarding research limitations and next steps for future research.

Water and Energy Use From Facilities That Grow Cannabis in Pueblo County, Colorado

This project will study the impact of legalization of recreational cannabis on water and energy use in Pueblo County in two stages.

Stage 1: collect and analyze data on how much energy and water are needed to grow cannabis. Stage 2: create a systems dynamics model to project the effects under different scenarios. Results from Stage 2 will depend on results from Stage 1, but creation of the model in Stage 2 can proceed simultaneously with Stage 1. The model developed will likely allow for water and energy consumption comparisons between indoor and outdoor growing facilities.

Stage 1

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

  • Collect data from growers, in Pueblo County and elsewhere in Colorado.
  • Collect data from State of Colorado sources, such as the Colorado Energy Office.
  • Collect data from sources in Pueblo County, such as Black Hills Energy and Board of Water Works of Pueblo.
  • Analyze data for credibility and consistency and for the effect of parameters on resource usage.

Stage 2

Energy (gas and electricity) and water are important resources required in the operation of any supply chain system. For Pueblo County, it is particularly important to analyze the impact in the consumption of these resources of a newly developed supply chain system. The supply system to be analyzed is the high (medical and recreational cannabis) and low (hemp) Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) supply system. In this proposal, the analyzed supply chain system covers the production and distribution of high and low THC including different products and usages.

A simulation-based system dynamics model will be developed to analyze the region's energy and water demand variation when a new supply chain system in introduced. The simulation-based model will look at population and housing sectors, residential, commercial, and industrial energy and water consumption, regional and business attractiveness, and land utilization and water rights. The model will analyze the details of the production process of high and low THC including main products and their by-products, resources utilization (personnel, land, water, gas, and electricity). The products will be divided into three different primary market sectors (medical, recreational, nutritional) when analyzing their distribution systems.

Several scenarios can be analyzed once the model is built such as environmental policies related to water and land use, CO2 emissions, impact on related and non-related business attractiveness in the region, and high and low THC taxation and its impacts on Pueblo County. A literature review will be conducted, but currently, no recent publications have presented a detailed analysis on all the resources required for different types of production and including main products and by-products, and so cannot model the impacts of this new supply chain system on the local area.

  • Develop, calibrate, and validate the systems dynamics model. This activity will include demonstrating the model to local stakeholders to assess the usefulness of the model. Several iterations of model building will be needed.
  • In consultation with local stakeholders, develop scenarios to be analyzed.
  • Operate the model for each of the scenarios.
  • Analyze the results to create conclusions concerning the implications for resource use under different scenarios.

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 County, Colorado

This project will study 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 (wind speed, relative humidity, precipitation, etc.). This research will focus on the predicted movement based on past studies of other species, measuring pollen at CSU-Pueblo, and field trials at CSU-Pueblo.

  • Literature review of pollen movement by species, growth conditions, and climate conditions
  • Analysis of climate conditions in Pueblo, CO (wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, etc.).
  • Detailed description of cannabis pollen (size, shape, etc.).
  • Greenhouse and field experiments measuring pollen travel of cannabis pollen at CSU-Pueblo.
  • Predicted pollen travel distances based on above data and results.

Institute of Cannabis Research

Faculty and Staff

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