Did pot money save small town from 'abyss of nothingness'? (CNN link): Anthony Mattie walks down Main Street confronted by a shell of the town he once knew.
The retired state patrolman-turned-mayor pro tem stares at vacant building after building, his reflection bouncing off the empty glass storefront windows. The streets are lined with century-old facades, but not much more, except for a few cars slowly passing by.
Still, Mattie maintains a sparkle in his eye and a boyish grin as he shares the plan to bring his town back to life -- thanks to marijuana money.
"The abandoned Pepsi plant became a marijuana dispensary. People resurrected these buildings that were about to fall and collapse," he says.
It's in large part thanks to at least $800,000 in marijuana tax revenue.
The green rush is bringing hope back to this once-booming coal mining town in rural southeast Colorado, just 11 miles from the New Mexico border, where generations of Mattie's family have lived. Residents pride themselves on the town's pioneer reputation and Wild West spirit.
"This is the place where Bat Masterson was the marshal. This is where Jesse James' gang did run. This is the place where Doc Holiday was a dentist and owned a brothel. This is the place," says Cy Michaels, a hotel owner and leader of the town's tourism board.
It was also home to one of the first places in the nation for gender reassignment surgery, earning it the unofficial title of "Sex change capital of the world" in the early 2000s. But the doctor left, mines shut down and businesses closed, leaving the town searching for a new identity. So the city turned to marijuana, hoping to fill the economic void.
Compared with 30,000 in its prime, 8,200 residents live here now. But Mattie and others hope weed dispensaries, grow facilities and a high-scale commercial chocolate edibles company can be a shot in the arm.
"I expect that the sale of medical and recreational marijuana in the city of Trinidad is transitional," Mattie says. "That it gets us over this abyss of nothingness."
The town is in many ways an experiment that other cities across America are watching. They're only starting to see the good, the bad and the uncertainty that comes with a small town green-lighting weed.
The town waded slowly into the controversial legal marijuana industry, waiting and only allowing medical marijuana business first.
"It's like tipping your toe in the water, testing the water," Mattie says. "And we said, 'Alright, this is not the big problem we maybe thought it could be.'"
And so began the transformation of the town. With the marijuana tax money, the city spent $70,000 on a new fire engine, a pumper truck. Some of the money has allowed the city to expedite replacing old water pipes.
"About 60% of our water pipes were installed between 1890 and 1950," Engeland says. "They're edging towards catastrophic failure."
The city bought several rundown buildings in the heart of town with plans to convert them into live-work lofts and galleries, to attract artists and craftspeople to Trinidad.
It's money that's making a difference for this struggling town and a trend being seen across the state.
Mod: The rest of this CNN report, including video, can be found at the link above.