Legalization of Retail Cannabis in Colorado Positively Impacted Property Values Across Denver

In November of 2012, twelve years after legalizing medical marijuana, Colorado voters approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use. The state adopted a model that allowed only existing marijuana dispensaries to convert to retail establishments.

New research from the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin–Madison reveals that property values in the immediate vicinity of Denver’s retail marijuana establishments increased by more than 8% since the law took effect on January 1, 2014.

Moussa Diop, Wisconsin School of Business assistant professor of real estate & urban land economics, along with James Conklin of the University of Georgia and Herman Li of California State University, say the relationship between the price of houses and retail conversions is particularly important with voters in four states legalizing recreational marijuana use last November and others likely to follow.

“The presence of retail marijuana establishments clearly had a short-term positive impact on nearby properties in Denver,” says Diop. “This suggests that in addition to the sales and business taxes generated from the retail marijuana industry, municipalities may experience an increase in property taxes. It’s an important piece of the puzzle as more and more voters and policy-makers look for evidence about the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana, as the issue is taken up by state legislatures across the country.”

Single family residences within 0.1 miles of a retail marijuana establishment saw an increase in value of approximately 8.4 percent compared to those located slightly further—between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles—from the site. That increase in property value was estimated to be almost $27,000 for an average house in the area.

While the study did not seek to identify the underlying drivers of what led to an increase in property values near retail conversions, the authors did identify potential explanations including: a surge in housing demand spurred by marijuana-related employment growth; lower crime rates; and additional amenities locating in close proximity to retail conversions.

The findings are in line with a 2016 study that identified a six percent increase in housing values on average in municipalities across the state of Colorado that allowed retail marijuana sales. Colorado’s model of allowing only existing medical marijuana dispensaries to convert to retail establishments was also used in Oregon and will be implemented in Nevada. Other states may follow that same procedure, as the adoption of medical marijuana laws is typically seen as a first step to broader legalization efforts.

The study relied on residential property information from the City of Denver’s Open Data Catalog and a list of retail licenses granted by the Colorado Department of Revenue, the agency responsible for administering the new law.

The paper, “Contact High: The External Effects of Retail Marijuana Establishments on House Prices” will be published in Real Estate Economics.

Melissa Ebanks

Melissa Ebanks

Melissa Ebanks is the currently the Chief Operating Officer at Salar Media Group. Prior to that role, Melissa was the Digital Marketing Specialist and Brand Marketing Specialist at PODS. Melissa has been an advertising and marketing thought leader for 20 years working with an expansive range of clients at some of the most creative ad agencies in the business.


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