Diane Schwenke, the CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said at a meeting at Main Street Bagels this morning that the chambers board hasnt even discussed or considered the possibility of bringing retail marijuana commerce to Grand Junction as a way to boost the local economy.
Schwenke made the statement after being asked about the chambers position on retail marijuana, which over the last two years has proven to be one of the biggest economic drivers in elsewhere in the state.
Marijuana became legal in Colorado 2012 after the passage of Amendment 64, but jurisdictions can opt out of allowing its sale or cultivation within their borders. The City of Grand Junction and Mesa County opted to ban marijuana commerce, but home rule cities in the County like DeBeque can still choose their own direction and permit marijuana commerce if their citizens desire.
As of May 27, 2016, 71 percent of the Colorados jurisdictions have decided to allow retail marijuana commerce.
The result has been an uptick in economic growth and sales tax revenues in the state in places where marijuana commerce is allowed.
Grand Junction and Mesa County citizens, however, have not been allowed to partake in the new marijuana economic boom. Instead, our local economy continues to languish amid the prosperity being enjoyed by the rest of the state while local, self-proclaimed economic cheerleaders like the chamber scratch their heads and wonder what they can possibly do to change our areas fortunes.
Could the answer be sitting right under their noses?
Economic Growth? What Economic Growth?
The data is now in.
According to the Denver Post, the cannabis industry has bolstered retail and manufacturing job growth in Colorado. Retail sales of marijuana started in 2014, and that year Colorado saw an immediate 3.5 percent jump in employment. By February, 2015, there were 15,992 people registered to work in the cannabis industry. The marijuana sector is providing high-paying jobs, too. The employment website Monster.com says after getting a foot in the door of the marijuana industry as a trimmer or retail worker, the positions to which people get promoted often pay $50,000-$90,000/year. Marijuana has boosted the fortunes of a host of ancillary industries, too, like tourism, agricultural suppliers, residential and commercial real estate construction, manufacturing, analytic laboratories, security companies, accounting firms, legal support and other sectors. The state expects to collect about $94 million in cannabis taxes this year. The housing market in Denver is booming, and none of the dire predictions of dazed people stumbling around the streets and significant increases in crime have come true. In fact, Marijuana-related crime makes up only 1 percent of all crimes committed in Denver, and marijuana arrests have actually decreased (pdf).
Amid all this data, and despite its mission of promoting economic growth in our area, the Grand Junction Chamber has turned a blind eye towards the marijuana industry by failing to even consider, mention or discuss the possibility of bringing marijuana commerce to our area as an economic driver. IN the mean time, our area has some of the highest unemployment, lowest wages and highest levels of poverty and homelessness in the state.
Schwenke was also unaware that there are now more than triple the number of cannabis shops in Colorado than Starbucks (690 marijuana storefronts vs. 216 Starbucks as of April 20, 2016) although she did say she was aware the cannabis industry has been bringing highly-paid jobs to the state.
When asked how the chamber board can continue to ignore this growing area of commerce and all the benefits it is bringing to other parts of the state, Schwenke shrugged and said Sign the petition (being circulated by citizens to make marijuana commerce legal again in Grand Junction.)
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: G. J. Chamber "Hasn’t Even Considered" Marijuana As A Way To Boost The Local Economy
Author: Bill Sanders
Contact: (970) 216-9842
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Website: Anne Landman’s Blog