Faculty-Student Collaboration


Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 12-12-2016


Recreational marijuana, land use, regulation, local government, Colorado


In November 2016 the number of states where recreational marijuana sales are legal increased to eight. Thousands of cities and counties are now on the front lines of regulating these new land uses. Local governments in Colorado, the first state to implement recreational marijuana legalization, are models for jurisdictions in other states. We study counties and municipalities in the eight micropolitan statistical areas in Colorado to learn how they regulate recreational marijuana businesses. We reviewed codes, ordinances, and other documents of 43 local governments and interviewed planners in a third of these jurisdictions. These places were purposefully selected and reflect their specific social, geographic, and economic contexts instead of the average experience of local governments. We found that over half of the jurisdictions prohibit the businesses. Among those that allow them, land use and operational regulations are designed to make these businesses more discreet and shield the population from negative impacts. Public opposition to new businesses by neighbors and people opposed to recreational marijuana was common. Jurisdictions that prohibit the businesses are adjacent to places that allow them, creating the conditions for a geographic monopoly that provides some jurisdictions a disproportionate amount of tax and fee revenue. Local governments should take the time to craft regulations that address community concerns and can withstand public opposition. They need to consider their choices in a regional context. Discussion at the regional level could lead to cooperation that would distribute both the benefits and burdens of the businesses more evenly.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.