Study: Zoning laws force pot shops into low-income and minority neighborhoods

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DENVER — The “not in my backyard” mentality seen in many aspects of Colorado life extends to retail pot shops, according to a University of Colorado Denver study released Monday.

The study, which analyzed municipal zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, found that regulations will likely cause a higher concentration of marijuana businesses in the poorer areas of Denver.

Since most cities use similar if not identical zoning rules for recreational pot shops, the trend is likely to continue, the Denver Business Journal reported.

“Though technically medical marijuana dispensaries provide a health care service, they have historically been required to adopt the same zoning restrictions as businesses that sell alcohol, pornography and firearms,” said study co-author Jeremy Németh.

“Generally, stores that sell these types of ‘vices’ are prohibited from locating in residential or mixed-use neighborhoods and are pushed into much less affluent neighborhoods.”

Németh, an associate professor at CU-Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning, conducted the study with former CU-Denver graduate student Eric Ross.

Ross and Németh found that governments tend to allocate land for marijuana businesses in “socioeconomically disadvantaged areas and areas with higher proportions of African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American residents,” the study said.

The study found that 46 percent of land in poorer areas of Denver was available for dispensaries, versus 29 percent in wealthier areas. Further, 35 percent of the land was available for dispensaries in neighborhoods where less than 50 percent of the population self-identified as white, compared to 29 percent elsewhere.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

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