In Trinidad, to toke or not to toke — that is the question

by Amanda Push

If you know anything about the cannabis industry in Colorado, you’ve probably heard of Trinidad. It’s a small town with a population of just 8,000 people but home to 25 dispensaries which draws visitors from Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.

“Cannabis coming to town got us out of the economic slump we were in. The economy busted in 2008 and 2009, and we also saw a boom-bust cycle with our natural gas industry,” Kimberly Schultz, co-owner of Trinidad’s Higher Calling U, told Westword. “When we were able to open these shops, we saw a dramatic increase in tax revenue coming into the community, we saw people become employed, and that was our main goal. People are working, and we saw this tremendous real estate grab when this all occurred.”

While Trinidad no doubt revels in the fruits of their local marijuana market, consumers are a bit stuck. Yes, they have the freedom to legally purchase weed here, but they have nowhere to lawfully smoke it. This is up for debate now, however, as the Trinidad city council is now seeking input from locals as to whether it should allow for marijuana hospitality licenses for businesses such as dispensaries and hotels, according to Westword.

“So we’re still kind of in a situation where people know Trinidad for our central location: to stop and buy gas, maybe some food, and now maybe some cannabis, but they’re getting back on the road,” Schultz said. “There are no reasons to stay. I have these conversations with my customers every day, where I have to essentially tell them that they’ve purchased legal cannabis and paid high taxes to do so, but they still have to treat it like they always have. It’s legal, yet still like a black-market situation, because we’re setting these customers up to fail. … If people had options, they’d enjoy themselves here, spend their money and come back.”

Social cannabis use and hospitality have a bit of a bumpy history in Colorado. In May 2019, Governor Jared Polis signed a law legalizing social marijuana use spaces.

“Colorado has many tourists and residents who choose to participate [in legal cannabis use]. Up until this bill, there’s been no way to have safe public consumption,” Polis said.

However, the development has been slow to roll out in Colorado. On the other hand, states like California have long been growing their capacity for marijuana lounges, according to Vox. As long as Colorado continues to drag its feet on evolving the cannabis industry and being the leader of the pack, we’ll find ourselves eating the dust of states like California. The state and communities like Trinidad will suffer in the process.

“If you’re in this sort of business, whether it’s alcohol or cannabis consumption, as a business owner you have to make sure people are safe and don’t over-consume,” Schultz said. “If the city council would let some of these hotels and other businesses allow it, too, it’d be even better, because then people wouldn’t have to travel. Right now, we’re putting people in that position on the road every day. … There has got to be a happy medium here.”

Amanda Push

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