The little towns that weed built

by Amanda Push

While the legalization of cannabis products becomes more mainstream, marijuana as a large stream of revenue is not new to many of Colorado’s cities and towns. In fact, weed has served as a vital part of Colorado’s economy, even within sparsely populated areas with no more than a few thousand, or even a few hundred, residents.

With a state sales tax of 2.9%, there has been well over $10 billion total in marijuana sales since 2014 in Colorado. Let’s see how marijuana changed these small Colorado towns, rich with greenery, into stopping points for travelers inside and outside of the state.

Antonito

Located near the New Mexico border, the tiny town of Antonito has several operating dispensaries for just a few hundred residents. This was not always so, however.

“You drive through Antonito and you used to not even have a gas station, and now it has four marijuana shops,” New Mexico Republican Sen. Cliff Pirtle told the Associated Press.

Today, for the record, Antonito has three gas stations. With a population of roughly 750 people, Antonito has attracted people from all over The Land of
Enchantment for years because of its proximity to the border. While some are concerned over New Mexico’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana, some shop owners aren’t overly concerned, feeling that their customer base in New Mexico has grown strong over the years.

“I think everything will be fine,” Leonard Garcia, co-owner of the Green World Express told The Colorado Sun.

Dinosaur

A speck of a town just three miles away from the Utah border, what Dinosaur lacks in spotlights, it makes up for in dispensaries. In 2016, Dinosaur residents voted 102-50 to allow for recreational marijuana sales within the town and the foot traffic has proven prosperous.

Since then, this northwest Colorado town has become home to three dispensaries. Dinosaur, made up of 320 residents, receives about $25,000 in tax revenue from the selling of marijuana, according to The Colorado Sun.

Durango

While weed certainly didn’t build Durango — it was a thriving tourist mecca long before cannabis was legal in the state — Durango has still become one small-but-mighty hotbed of cannabis over the years.

With roughly 10 dispensaries operating in the city, Durango is a haven for lovers of all things green: mountains, forests, and marijuana. Like many of the towns on this list, Durango is a border town, but not to just one state. Not too far from The Four Corners Monument where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet, Durango attracts foot traffic not only across the southwest but across the country as well.

Pagosa Springs

The same thing goes for Pagosa Springs. While Pagosa is known for its hot springs and beautiful scenery, cannabis has helped put it on the map even more
than it was prior to the state’s passage of legal cannabis.

In 2020, in Archuleta County, where Pagosa Springs resides, $15.5 million of marijuana products were sold. There are roughly six dispensaries in Pagosa Springs, the county seat of Archuleta.

Archuleta County requires dispensaries to grow 70% of what is sold at their stores. This policy protects the local businesses by keeping large corporations from coming to town and pulling customers from the smaller grows and shops.

Trinidad

In the southern Colorado town of Trinidad, the area has become a bit of a green haven as two of the state’s large cannabis companies, LivWell and The
Green Solution, have set up shops here.

Situated in a county of 14,000 residents, Trinidad hosts about 25 dispensaries. In 2020, altogether, these shops sold $71 million worth of weed. Collecting $3.5 million in sales tax that year, Trinidad has been able to fund amenities and necessities such as a new fire truck and street sweeper as well as assist residents with rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Colorado Sun.

Sedgwick

With a population of only 150 residents, Sedgwick was on the cusp of becoming a ghost town in the early 2000s. Now, for this Colorado town that borders Nebraska ― a prohibition state ― things are looking quite a bit different.

As of 2010, Sedgwick already had medical dispensaries operating in town. When state officials legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, Sedgwick started experiencing a bit of an economic boom. According to The Gazette, the tax revenue this northeastern town has gained from hosting a handful of dispensaries has allowed the Colorado border town to revamp, clean up, and maintain its downtown as well as other areas of the community.

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