Pueblo County, Colorado has played host to a series of cannabis firsts.
“Pueblo County was the first in the world along with Denver to start selling regulated retail cannabis…and then all of the sudden we were also the first community to have to face a do-over vote,” said Jim Parco, spokesman for the No-on-200 campaign, which advocated against a November 8 ballot measure that would have repealed legislation for the sale, cultivation and processing of recreational cannabis in Pueblo.
When the people of Pueblo came out in droves to defeat Question 200 – by 58 percent of voters, to be exact – it signified to Parco that Pueblo was ready for another first.
“Pueblo has been first on so many levels,” Parco told Civilized. “It just seemed fitting and appropriate to build the [country’s first] National Marijuana Museum here.”
A committee known as Growing Pueblo’s Future, which includes Parco and a coalition of civic and business leaders, started planning for a museum that would “celebrate the rich scientific, anthropological and cultural histories of cannabis” back in the summer, but they paused their efforts when Question 200 qualified for the ballot.
Now that Pueblo residents have voiced their support for legalization once and for all, developments are back in full swing, and Parco has never been more certain that Pueblo is the ideal home for the National Marijuana Museum.
Parco says cannabis boosts local economy
“[Since] legalization became a reality… unemployment in Pueblo is down around 4.5 percent. It has completely revitalized our community," said Parco of the region that struggled economically for many years due to a diminishing steel industry. "Winning this vote was wonderful because we thought ‘Now Pueblo has a fighting chance to actually develop an industry here.’”
Since Colorado legalized cannabis in 2012, Pueblo has benefited from 1,300 new jobs and annual tax revenue of $3.5-million, said Parco. He sees no better way to commemorate this triumph – and similar ones taking place across the country – than with a designated space that honors them and provides context for them.
“Cannabis has got a really rich history and the problem is that there’s really no way for people to learn about it… we need to start thinking about educating on a broader scale,” he said.
“People go to museums to learn, to question, to actually have that lived experience. I think that’s really important because cannabis has really only been problematic in this country for the last 80 years… and we’re now actually seeing that arc of progress.”
While the folks at Growing Pueblo’s Future certainly wouldn’t turn their backs to the possibility of a productive discussion with those who pushed to get cannabis legalization repealed in Pueblo, their focus in developing the museum is on encouraging a “more robust public dialogue” with everyone wishing to learn more about the history and benefits of the plant.
For Parco, it’s an endeavour that’s “all about education.”
“Cannabis has been around for millions of years and it’s interacted with human societies for thousands… it’s important that we actually put together exhibits to show this history,” he said.
Parco said the group hopes to have a tentative location for the museum nailed down by January, but added that they are “not rushing to get this done quickly because we think it’s core.”
“We’re saying the summer of 2018 is our current target of when we’d like to see it open, but we’re literally just now in the process of setting up our legal structure, the bylaws, the articles of organizations, bank accounts, local development, all the things to start doing our marketing and fundraising,” he said.
“We’re going to be slow and deliberate and accurate with this.”
When all is said and done, however, Parco has high hopes for the National Marijuana Museum. He imagines a world where Pueblo County becomes a must-see for tourists.
“[The museum could] become a beacon for people not just in the state and the country, but throughout the world,” said Parco. “When they come to the United States, imagine [tourists] saying they have to go to New York City to see the Empire State Building and to Los Angeles to see the Hollywood sign… and to Pueblo, Colorado to see the National Marijuana Museum.”
Banner image: Growing Pueblo’s Future entered a float in the Colorado State Fair Fiesta Day Parade September 4th of this year.