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Pueblo County marijuana producers upset over lack of available licenses, drop in tax revenue

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Pueblo County marijuana cultivators are expressing their concerns over perceived inaction by the Pueblo County Commissioners on not allowing them to sign new licenses to grow and produce cannabis.

A vote by the three commissioners has been delayed twice in the last week, a vote that would allow the commissioners to review and sign off on new licenses for cannabis cultivators who previously held a license. Currently, Pueblo County has instituted a cap on all marijuana licenses at 122, meaning no new operators can apply for one. According to Pueblo County Assistant Attorney Sarah Long, there are currently 32 licenses that would be available if the county commissioners sign off on it.

This comes as those in the industry say the amount of operators growing cannabis in Pueblo County has dropped precipitously. Due to this, the cultivators say Pueblo County has lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue.

"I can tell you most of the people I was born in this industry with are gone," Anthony Russo, a Pueblo County marijuana cultivator said. "Another friend of mine just closed a week and a half ago and did not renew his license because of lack of being able to pay for it."

Russo says he and his cultivator competitors will not be able to grow cannabis in Pueblo County going into their summer grow season without the ability to apply for a new one.

"I can't get a new license on this property as it sits unless I buy one, which most of them have gone by the wayside," Russo said.

Russo and others in the industry feel the pushback on license renewals is coming from property owners who do not want cannabis being grown near their homes. They believe these property owners are expressing their discontent to the county commissioners, therefore delaying the vote to approve licenses.

"I don't know how the county feels that people who spend money are being treated fairly. Those are lost dollars. I don't know how the county sees this as a good stance for Pueblo going forward economically," Russo said.

KRDO13 Investigates reached out to Pueblo County Chairman and County Commissioner Eppie Griego for comment on the postponement of the vote on marijuana licenses. He has not responded.

At their previous meeting on April 18, all three county commissioners, including Zach Swearingen and Daneya Esgar, stated they needed more time to consult with county attorneys on the issue. A vote on this issue has been tabled to the county commissioners meeting on Thursday, April 26.

However, according to Assistant County Attorney Sarah Long, the vote on Thursday will only be for retail marijuana business licenses and not for cultivation licenses. This is something that has those in the industry pleading for that to change.

"If they don't act quickly and efficiently, I don't know who's going to be the left that grows outdoors. Nobody can grow if they don't have a license. There's farms as far as the eye can see that are defunct. Out of business. Tattered. It's sad to see," Russo said.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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