Colorado Town Opts Out of the New Green Economy

Vail, Colorado has been reluctant to embrace the state’s historic and lush path to weed and freedom. The upscale resort town has had a temporary ban on the marijuana trade within city limits, but officials are now mulling whether to make their kibosh on kush permanent.

This week, the town council voted 6-1 to give “first-reading approval” of a ban on retail marijuana stores and cultivation facilities, meaning they’ll vote as soon as this week for final approval to keep ganja stores and grow ops out of town.

Many Colorado towns (over 150 of them) and counties (more than two-thirds in the state) have opted out of the green rush—as is their right—but Vail is the only big-time ski resort to do so. Why? Because of perception. Branding. Reputation.

The Vail town manager’s office told High Times that they have received a lot of phone calls and emails from residents supporting the ban and that the sole dissenter was not even from Vail but nearby Avon. The office shared some of the comments, which ranged from “send a message that Vail is serious about its aspiration to become the premiere international mountain resort,” to let’s not waste the “decades of effort and substantial treasure building the Vail brand to the status it enjoys today.”

Mayor Andy Daly echoed this preoccupation with Vail’s precious image.

“I really believe that we’ve spent tremendous time and money developing a very definitive Vail brand, and it’s one that is based on quality and professionalism,” Daly told the Colorado Statesman. “So while marijuana for the state overall is fine, what we have to look to in Vail is really protecting our brand.”

It is ironic that a decision to opt out of a booming new economy is based on the fear of economic reprisals for failing to do so.

“If you look at our demographics, it’s an older demographic,” Daly said. “Certainly we’re moving towards a younger demographic, but at this point that older demographic is extraordinarily supportive. They spend a lot of money with us and I see no reason to either antagonize them or give them some excuse not to continue to come to Vail.”

Paradoxically, some see the ban as an economic advantage. If Vail is the only ski town without the weed trade, then it will attract the older (and stuffier) crowd who wish to avoid it.

The town manager’s office said that one council member was actually against the ban but voted for it anyway, since she did not want to subvert the will of the people. Which is pretty damn odd, given that the town voted overwhelmingly to legalize throughout the state in 2012.

The good news is that even a permanent ban can be overturned by a future, savvier town council, but the immediate outlook doesn’t bode well. The people of Vail want to ban the sale of weed because they believe danky commerce would make them look bad, but the ban itself makes them look like supercilious prigs.

Screw you guys, I’m going to Aspen.

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