Marijuana Has ‘Saved’ DeBeque: What Happens If It Is No Longer Legal?

January 9, 2018
Marijuana(Courtest of Brett Levin, Flickr Commons)
This crop has become DeBeque's economic mainstay.

Tiny DeBeque, Colorado, has three pot shops, a grow operation and another shop set to open later this month. That makes marijuana the mainstay of the DeBeque economy that once hinged on ranching and energy extraction. Marijuana taxes now make up nearly half the town's revenue. Without it, DeBeque town administrator Lance Stewart says, DeBeque could become "a ward of the state."

So Stewart is jittery about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that he is rescinding an Obama administration policy to keep federal law enforcement from interfering in states that have legalized marijuana. The town literally has no other business base to replace marijuana: There is a single coffee shop, a small grocery store and a convenience store, in addition to the pot shops. The only restaurant, a Subway, recently closed.

Stewart tells Colorado Matters that in anticipation of Sessions' decision, DeBeque's town board voted late last summer to create a process to quickly convert recreational marijuana licenses to medical licenses. The town is also working with state elected officials and the marijuana industry lobby to fight any change in the legal marijuana industry's status quo.