The Marijuana Industry’s War on the Poor
Take a stroll past the gray stucco-clad building in northeast Denver and it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on behind the bright green doors. On a recent afternoon, outside Green Fields Cannabis Co., a sweetly pungent, slightly skunky odor filled the air before a light rain began to rinse it away. Just a block south on Brighton Boulevard, past a salvage yard and a Mexican grocery, the smell of what’s growing inside Starbuds is sometimes noticeable before you arrive in front of the medical and recreational marijuana chain’s original location. Even drivers whizzing by on Interstate 70 catch a heady whiff of Denver’s hottest new product as they zip across town.
But they don’t have to live here.
In working-class neighborhoods like Elyria-Swansea, Globeville and Northeast Park Hill there’s a growing sense among residents that they have been overrun by a new drug trade, legal but noxious all the same. These communities once offered plentiful jobs in the city’s smelters, meatpacking houses, brickyards and stockyards, but those industries are mostly gone now, along with Denver’s cow town image. In the past few years, the city’s newest growth industry has moved in—and not in a subtle way. In Elyria-Swansea alone, more than three dozen businesses are licensed to grow and sell marijuana and another dozen companies manufacture edible pot products. To the people living in the modest homes near the grow operations that supply the dispensaries and shops in better-off parts of town, the smell is not only an inconvenience but a reminder of their lack of political clout.
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