Marijuana would provide an economic boost

By Thomas Wills


Dear Editor:

This letter is an attempt to convince the voters of my little town, Hotchkiss, to allow legal, commercial marijuana businesses to locate within the town. To set aside their moral objections and fears and consider what is best for everyone, something I have tried to always do in my 12 years on the Hotchkiss Town Council.

It was sad, but not unexpected, news when the Bowie #2 coal mine, the last coal mine actually located within Delta County, closed -- possibly for good. Arch Coal, owner of the last Valley mine, the West Elk Mine in Gunnison County, filed for bankruptcy in January. At the end of February another retail business closed its doors in Hotchkiss, where I have been in business for 26 years. As the national economy as a whole has steadily recovered over the past seven years since the 2008 economic collapse we have not been so lucky. Two of the three valley mines are now closed and ripples from this touch every business in Hotchkiss, the valley and Delta County.

Which brings me to basic economics. Things are bad locally and they are about to get worse. Coal is going away and it is not coming back. We need to build a new economy for Hotchkiss and the North Fork. Some of the pieces of this new economy are in place: quality of life lifestyle immigration, tourism and the natural beauty of our mountains, organic, natural and traditional farming and orchards, value added food product manufacturing and the creative arts. The promise of higher speed Internet service will help. But this all is not enough to make up for what we are losing and we need every new clean industry/business we can get. Including the booming Colorado cannabis industry.

I believe we can welcome retail and related marijuana businesses to Hotchkiss with very little in the way of negative impacts, as other towns' positive experiences have shown. We can choose to be provincial and impractical as the local economy declines or we can be pro-active and add jobs and tax revenues to our community while adding another small piece to reversing the downhill trend. This new industry, which is producing billions in revenue throughout Colorado, is not a magic bullet to cure our future economic ills but it will be a modest step forward that fits with other trends in the area. Marijuana stores will bring tourists, hopefully "destination" tourists who fill local lodgings, will patronize many other local businesses during their stays thus creating even more jobs, income and tax revenues beyond the industry itself.

Hotchkiss voters, please consider the economics and support your local businesses by voting yes on measures 2A, 2B and 2C on your ballot.

Thomas Wills
Hotchkiss