The Great Fear: Trump’s Real Ability To Wreck Colorado’s Economy

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By now—just 10 calendar days into his first term—it’s well demonstrated that President Donald Trump will do whatever he wants whenever he wants—decorum, science and even basic Constitutional procedure be damned.

This has Colorado on its very best behavior and doing whatever it can not to wind up on Trump’s or soon-to-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s shit list. As the state’s marijuana advocates and those getting used to the boost to Colorado’s economy and state revenue are realizing, a vindictive or just plain bored Trump administration could rub it all out if it so desired, even on a whim.

Sessions is likely to be confirmed as attorney general as early as this week. Considering Trump just fired his acting attorney general for saying she would not defend his (very likely unlawful) executive order on immigration, the president may be inclined to push the Republican-controlled Senate to call Sessions for an up-down vote as soon as possible.

In his confirmation hearings, Sessions was deliberately coy about his plans for the states where the Controlled Substances Act is openly and flagrantly violated on an hourly basis. Ergo, nobody but Sessions knows what he plans to do about the country’s progress on cannabis, but it’s clear that “Jeff Sessions really does hate marijuana,” as Denver weed attorney Brian Vicente told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. With this crew, hate is a very powerful motivator, as the international uproar over Trump’s hateful executive order on immigration demonstrated.

Remember that Colorado, a blue state that went for Hillary Clinton, has become so reliant on marijuana tax revenue over the past two years that cities are literally repaving their streets with weed money. It’s not hyperbole to say a federal crackdown could be “catastrophic to Colorado’s economy,” as the newspaper observed.

Colorado’s marijuana retail stores sold more than $1.3 billion in legal weed in 2016, according to a state estimate. Of that, more than $800 million was on the recreational market.

There are more than 1,000 businesses with recreational marijuana licenses alone, according to state officials, including cultivation sites, retail stores and testing labs. This means there are at least 18,000 people employed directly in marijuana, Vicente told the paper.

Colorado collected $141 million in direct tax revenue on its cannabis industry—but when ancillary industries like real estate, construction, grow-supply stores, lawyers, accountants and tech support are considered, cannabis has a total “economic benefit” to the state of close to $2.3 billion, according to Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a marijuana trade association.

Denver is absolutely enjoying extended boom times, with real-estate prices steadily rising and housing construction to match. The LA Times fingers the state’s bullish marijuana market as a driver behind it all. This is why Kelly firmly believes that a Sessions DOJ-led crackdown on marijuana could send all of Colorado into a recession.

“Cannabis was credited at one point for resurrecting Denver’s commercial real estate market,” she told the paper. If it goes away, things might not fall apart overnight, but the pain will most certainly be felt in places like Edgewater, the Denver suburb that gleans 20 percent of its municipal budget from weed sales.

This brings us back to the billion-dollar question: Will he? Won’t he?

Skeptics point out that dismantling Colorado’s pot economy would be a titanic undertaking and a flagrant violation of the hallowed conservative principles of states’ rights and small government. It’s just too much. It would be too unpopular. It’s unthinkable! Just like building a big border wall and refusing to let Iraqis who worked for the U.S. military into the country.

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