The line at Breckenridge Cannabis Club goes out the door as vacationers and residents alike take advantage of Colorado’s new recreational marijuana laws. (Kathryn Olson/AP)
We’ve seen photos and stories from Colorado ski towns such as Aspen and Breckenridge showing vacationers filing lines out the door at marijuana shops, so of course, we had to wonder what kind of impact legal pot could have on Colorado real estate. Are more buyers putting it in their pipes and smoking it?
Turns out the Colorado Association of Realtors was wondering the exact same thing. After all, with 136 pot retailers in the state as of Dec. 2013, buyers were throwing green after green, eventually causing a state-wide shortage of smokables. But is recreational marijuana a boon for Colorado real estate, or a burden?
“Some people don’t want to come [to Colorado] with their families,” says Joyce Burford, executive director of Colorado Association of Ski Towns. “Because they have this image that all these pot smokers will be everywhere.” That’s not happening, she says, and “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Analysis from the Colorado Association of Realtors shows that while state law no longer forbids recreational pot sales and retailers, local governments hold the keys to the lease.
The majority of counties in Colorado have either already passed bans on recreational marijuana retailers or have delayed making a decision and placed a moratorium on pot business; closely monitoring how enactment is working in other parts of the state.
It looks as though recreational marijuana businesses will be absent from large portions of the state for the foreseeable future. According to the Denver Post, of the ten largest cities in Colorado (by population), only Denver is expected to accept license applications for recreational marijuana stores this year.
It’s also important to note that in counties and cities that have decided to allow recreational sales, grow operations will only be in areas zoned industrial.
Right now, Denver and Denver County are the only areas where you can still apply for a marijuana sales license. So vacation property owners don’t really have to worry about an influx of new ganja businesses. And in Vail, there’s a complete moratorium on recreational marijuana sales. Still, folks in Aspen are buying pot, but at least one Realtor doesn’t think it will do much for real estate sales, if anything at all.
“I don’t think [legal marijuana] is making that much difference,” Joshua Landis, a real-estate agent in Aspen, said in this piece in The Daily Beast.
“People have always been able to access marijuana in Aspen. Nobody is out smoking marijuana on the corner” just because it’s suddenly legal to possess and use it in private (it’s still illegal to use publicly). In addition, he says, “I don’t think it has any effect” on property values. “No one who can afford to buy property in Aspen is going to make their decision based on marijuana policy.”
If the lines snaking outside of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club are any indication, pot tourism might make Colorado the new Amsterdam. And heck, it might be a draw so much in that it awakens latent demand for buyers who want to move to a 4:20-friendly state, but perhaps in more affordable areas such as Denver and its surrounding suburbs.
Others, like Lubbock’s Colt and Amanda Smith, are among those planning to move to the state to ride the new economy. The couple founded the Lubbock chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
They had talked about retiring in Colorado but decided to act early once the new law took effect.
“We have our house on the market right now,” Colt Smith said. “It makes sense to find exile in a place that has more reasonable laws than to sit around and wait for Texas to get there.”
The Smiths hope to launch a marijuana edibles business once they establish residency.
“We feel like Colorado is just beautiful and has beautiful laws,” Smith said. “When people tell me they’re going there to ski now, they use air quotes.”