America’s Smartest Cities Love Pot

Does cannabis use and a college degree go hand-in-hand? A survey by reveals the “The Most Educated Cities in America” – and the top three are all 420-friendly.

The survey ranked cities across the nation based on the percentage of residents aged 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or greater level of education. The top three most educated cities are all college towns with thriving cannabis industries in states employing different models of marijuana regulation.

The cultures surrounding large institutes of higher learning have always expressed a more evolved attitude toward marijuana, but the correlation between educated communities and cannabis law reform has rarely been illustrated. As tales of smoking pot and brain damage continue to resonate among naysayers, evidence that cannabis is not a drag on society continues to roll in.

Demographic information regarding income levels and poverty statistics were included in the survey listing, per 2013 US government data.

Corvallis, Oregon
Corvallis Aerial by Basset Studios

Bachelor’s degree or higher: 52.2 percent
Median household income: $47,808 (188th lowest)
Median earnings — bachelor’s degree: $36,211 (18th lowest)
Poverty rate: 23.1 percent (23rd highest)
College: Oregon State University, enrollment nearly 25,000
Statewide marijuana legalization: Passed but not in effect

In November of 2014 Oregon voters legalized adult use of marijuana, but the survey was done before that vote was taken. The state has enjoyed a strong medical program for years, and some communities have permitted the patient support industry to enhance the lives of their qualifying citizens.

Corvallis has done just that, and has been successful at it. A recent article featured in the local paper describes the relationship between the city’s four dispensaries and the police chief with the word “trust.”

The chief has a “perspective that allows us to grow with him,” said Brock Binder, the owner of High Quality Compassion. “He’s provided an environment that allows us to do that.”

The community could use the economic boost. With a 23.1 percent poverty rate and a median household income near the bottom of the charts, Corvallis will benefit from the jobs created by the patient support industry in a way the other two of the top three cities cannot.

Oregon State University’s Corvallis Campus offers a course titled “Marijuana Policy in the 21st Century,” perhaps educating the next wave of cannabusiness operators. The class began this term and enrollment was at capacity.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Bachelor’s degree or higher: 53.5 percent
Median household income: $59,660 (46th highest)
Median earnings — bachelor’s degree: $46,829 (136th highest)
Poverty rate: 16.7 percent (174th highest)
College: University of Michigan, enrollment 44,000
Statewide marijuana legalization: None

Ann Arbor has a long history of cannabis law reform practices. John Sinclair’s 1969 arrest and sentence of 10 years in prison for possession of two joints sparked a cannabis revolution nationwide. The concert held in Ann Arbor to rally support for his cause featured John Lennon and is the stuff of rock legend. That case sparked the city to decriminalize the possession of marijuana, reducing the crime to a ticketable offense with a penalty of $5. The possession ordinance is still in effect today, although the price of a violation has risen with inflation.

That concert was the genesis for a long-standing tradition of celebrating the wonderfulness of the marijuana plant in an annual gathering on the U of M campus, a rally of national significance now known as Hash Bash and The Monroe Street Fair. Past speakers have included presidential candidates, heads of national organizations and top elected officials.

Michigan’s medical marijuana law was passed in 2008 but there are no rules governing a distribution network. Much like in Oregon, cities in the Great Lakes State have accepted or banned marijuana commerce as they saw fit. The Ann Arbor Medical Cannabis Guild is a dispensary organization that has established strong relations with city officials despite the absence of state sanction for the industry. Ten dispensaries are scattered around the city, and neighboring Ypsilanti has licensed a half-dozen more, with no evidence of disruption to the communities they serve.

Boulder, Colorado

Bachelor’s degree or higher: 53.5 percent
Median household income: $59,660 (46th highest)
Median earnings — bachelor’s degree: $46,829 (136th highest)
Poverty rate: 16.7 percent (174th highest)
College: University of Colorado at Boulder, enrollment 23,000
Statewide marijuana legalization: Yes

No state has seen its marijuana use more scrutinized than Colorado’s. International reporters and continental spin doctors has evaluated the industry – and the effects of full legalization of marijuana use by adults – from every conceivable angle. Most of the attention has focused on two centers of the state’s marijuana trade and activity: Boulder and Denver.

Colorado has enjoyed a medical marijuana law for many years and certain urban centers have become accustomed to the presence of a formerly vilified industry. Boulder’s integration with the cannabis industry is a more measured approach than Denver has taken. The Boulder Revised Code mandates that “persons or locations with over six plants or 2 ounces of product become a business under our local code and each business in our city limits must have a valid and compliant city Medical Marijuana Business (MMB) license, along with a state license from the State Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, to legally operate.”

Considering each Colorado resident 21 and over can legally purchase one ounce of marijuana from a dispensary and several residents may be gathered in a single home to celebrate life and plot world domination, this policy seems less enlightened than one would associate with the nation’s most educated city for 2014. Nevertheless, Boulder does sport a thriving industry of both medical and adult-use marijuana distribution centers and is an integral part of the cannabis scene in Colorado.

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