Michael Lausin: Stop missing out on pot money
Again, Craig has turned down an economic development opportunity and has made the merchants in Steamboat very happy. I’m talking about the failure to gain enough signatures for the retail cannabis ballot measure. Various writers to the editor don’t think there’s much money in retail cannabis, but I beg to differ.
Three years ago Time Magazine estimated that the average legal cannabis smoker spends $650 a year on cannabis and who knows how much was actually spent when it was still illegal. I’ll make a conservative estimate that there are 100 recreational cannabis smokers in Craig and Moffat County. I know that there are probably six to eight times that many, but I’ll go with 100. I have heard that there are about 200 people who hold medical cannabis cards, but we won’t count their numbers at this time. From those 100 people that’s $65,000 in recreational sales per year and about $2,762 in “regular” sales taxes that the city and county is missing out on. Each taxing entity can add additional cannabis related taxes for retail, medical and growing if they so choose.
Now let’s add in the five to seven “pot tourists” that come through Craig per day from Wyoming and Utah on their way to Steamboat because they can’t buy cannabis here. Not only are they spending their $650 per year in Steamboat, they’re probably doing other shopping while there too. Let’s not forget about our own tourists, the hunters. Do we want to be sending them and their dollars to Steamboat too? The city said that there is a shortfall on sales tax, which will affect city services unless there is a tax increase and we’re pushing people to shop elsewhere. Does that make good economic sense? Do you want to be paying more in taxes to maintain the level of services we currently have?
If there’s no money retail cannabis, why did The Steamboat Pilot report that over $39,000 was collected in cannabis related sales taxes in January 2016? They also reported that the cannabis businesses of Steamboat brought in $9.1 million dollars in 2015. Craig and Moffat County probably won’t see those kinds of numbers, but I’d be willing to bet that we would be able to siphon off $1 to 1.5 million of that $9.1 million. That’s between $42,500 and $63,750 in “regular” sales taxes our city and county would collect. From a small business aspect, splitting $1 to 1.5 million dollars between three or four businesses and adding three or four good paying jobs per business would make for some good economic development.
Can we afford to be too picky about taking our economic development opportunities? Our turning down the ballot measure is just another one of the 13 ways we’re killing our community. If you haven’t read the book “13 Ways To Kill Your Community”, I suggest that you do so. We do 11 out of the 13 things and it’s time to change that number. We have to change that number, otherwise we’re going to watch our community economically dry up and blow away.
Will retail cannabis alone economically save our town? No. Will it help us become more economically viable? Yes. There isn’t going to be any big magic industry that will come into town to save us from the downturn in the energy and coal economies that we have depended upon for the past 60 or 80 years. Our politicians and community leaders can’t do it either. WE have to do it together as a community. It’s going to be painful because there has to be an adjustment in our way thinking, otherwise we will never succeed. If we don’t succeed Craig will become just another small town with a bunch of closed up stores (Safeway, Aarons, Dollar Store, The Edge) and we’ll be the ones traveling to Steamboat to shop for everyday staples and for those so inclined their cannabis too.
Michael LausinMichael Lausin
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