Recreational marijuana's impact growing in Pueblo County

Medical marijuana shops being negatively affected, shop manager says

Recreational Pot's Impact Felt in Pueblo County

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. - According to the manager of a medical marijuana business, the expansion of Pueblo County's recreational marijuana industry is putting the squeeze on medical shops and their patients.

On Tuesday, Josh Behling of Steel City Meds in Pueblo West said an increasing number of medical pot shops is switching partly or completely to recreational pot because of the potential profit involved.

"They're either opening separate shops or running both from the same shop," he said.  "I don't think having both in the same shop is the best way to do it."

Behling said younger medical marijuana customers, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 21, have fewer places to get the drug because they can't legally buy it at recreational stores.

Steel City Meds opened in 2011.  Behling said business is good and the owner plans to gradually open a separate store for recreational customers.

"But it won't be at the expense of our medical customers," he said.

Steel City Meds also has a growing operation to supply product for the shop.

Such growing operations are what has the federal Bureau of Reclamation concerned.  In May, the bureau issued a statement prohibiting local water districts from supplying growing operations with water owner or managed by the bureau, under threat of prosecution.

However, many districts complained that the statement is too ambiguous and are waiting for clarification from the bureau.  The Pueblo West Water District, in fact, continues to supply water to three marijuana growing operations.

"(The bureau has) made no formal or official contact with us as of yet," said Jack Johnston, the district manager.  "Until such time, we're going to continue until it's been determined that in some fashion we'd be out of compliance."

Meanwhile, the Pueblo Board of Water Works expects to decide next month whether it will grant requests to provide water to growing operations outside the city limits.  Last month, the board agreed to provide such water to any legal marijuana-related business except retail shops.

"I'm sure people would like to see the gears move a little bit faster in government," said board spokesman Paul Fanning.  "But this is new territory for all of us."

Fanning said the city of Pueblo is still accepting applications for, but has yet to grant, licenses for the growing, processing and testing of marijuana. 

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