Architecture and Planning ETDs

Publication Date



Voters and legislatures throughout the country are winding down the War on Drugs and legalizing marijuana for medical and retail use. While many regulatory decisions are made at state capitals nationwide, the marijuana landscape is largely shaped by local authorities exercising influence through land use planning. Over a decade after passing a voter-initiated medical marijuana program, Colorado voters approved a State Constitutional Amendment fully legalizing marijuana for adult use. The "Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act of 2012" made Colorado the first state to legalize the sale, taxation, and possession of marijuana through a commercial market. Local governments were given the choice to permit or ban the cultivation and sale of marijuana within their jurisdictions, while also having the prerogative to use zoning to shape the market's landscape. One local jurisdiction, Pueblo County, modified their existing land use regulations for medical marijuana cultivation and sale and permitted retail marijuana cultivation and sale mostly as a by-right land use throughout the County. Current federal policies have complicated the ability of cannabusiness owners to obtain legal water. This thesis explores the implications of new land use and water regulations placed upon the rapidly growing marijuana industry and will further assist in policy development as other states legalize marijuana. Qualitative research methods utilized in this thesis include content and relational analyses of zoning compliance information and interviews with County land use and zoning officials, water managers and regulators, and three licensed marijuana cultivators. Questions focused on the federal, state, and local policies that influence regulation and cannabusiness development and operations, as well as experiences acquiring zoning approval and a legal water supply. Findings include the basis for development of marijuana land use policies in Pueblo County, addressing security and other public land use concerns, water service concerns, challenges including federal water policy and the future of the emerging marijuana and hemp industries in Pueblo County. This thesis identifies considerations for evolving marijuana markets and recommendations for communities facing local land use questions in light of state-level legalization.



Document Type


Degree Name

Community and Regional Planning

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)

Ehrenfeucht, Renia

Second Committee Member

Carr, John

Third Committee Member



land use planning, marijuana legalization, marijuana cultivation, zoning, water policy, planning for cannabis, Colorado Amendment 64, Pueblo Colorado, locally unwanted land uses