Garden City isn’t much of a city; it’s smaller than a square mile and has fewer than 300 residents. But it could afford to spend $3 million on downtown infrastructure upgrades thanks to its four bustling marijuana retailers.
Before the first medical marijuana dispensary in town opened in 2009, Garden City collected about $360,000 in revenue each year, said longtime Town Administrator Cheryl Campbell. Now pot is legal for recreational use, too, and last year, the town raked in over $2 million from sales taxes alone — mostly from the sale of bud, pre-rolled joints, edibles and other pot products.
The marijuana boom hasn’t had any downsides, Campbell said. “It’s been a benefit to the community, as far as I’m concerned. And I was anti-marijuana myself.”
In Colorado and other states that let adults possess small amounts of marijuana, the lure of additional tax revenue has helped convince many towns and counties to welcome pot shops. Here in conservative-leaning Weld County, where most towns have said “no” to dispensaries, local officials are watching Garden City and wondering whether they should change their anti-pot stance.
For instance, although the 7,000-odd residents of Milliken in 2015 voted against licensing dispensaries, the town board last year decided to license a couple of retailers. “Obviously, the town board that approved that was hoping for revenue,” Milliken Town Administrator Leonard Wiest said. “They saw what was happening in Garden City.”