Marijuana Facts

Cornering marijuana market brings new park, museum to Sedgwick

Ninety miles separate Sedgwick Alternative Relief from the next closest cannabis storefront down the Interstate 76 corridor.

That’s a big enough distance for the tiny town of Sedgwick to capture the weed market of those living in this corner of the state while also making it a beacon for drive-in business from Nebraska, where marijuana possession and use remains illegal.

“I think we’ve been kind of a trailblazer out here, and it’s really made a difference in our town,” said Rhonda Jones, Sedgwick’s town clerk. “Just looking at Main Street five years ago and now, you can see the difference.”

Five years ago is when legal cannabis sales in Colorado began, and in that time, Sedgwick has been the only town in the far northeast corner of the state to allow commerce in the once-illegal drug. Log Lane Village, near Fort Morgan, is the closest competition.

The economic benefits of all those marijuana transactions in Sedgwick have not gone unnoticed.

“I think Sedgwick was very fortunate in that it got in on the front end of this,” said Mike Sullivan, director of the Sedgwick County Economic Development Corporation. “In this part of the world, any economic activity is good.”

Sedgwick County once had a sweet history, with the small town of Ovid serving as home to an enormous Great Western Sugar Co. factory. But the factory closed in the 1970s and was finally brought down by the wrecking ball last year.

As seen from the air in this June 19, 2017 file photo, Demolition crews started demolishing the former Great Western Sugar Co. factory in Ovid.
RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file

Seen from the air in this June 19, 2017 file photo, are the remains of the former Great Western Sugar Co. factory in Ovid.

Located just outside the mineral-rich Denver-Julesburg Basin, Sedgwick hasn’t been able to capitalize on Colorado’s recent oil and gas boom. By the start of 2014, the town was in “sad shape,” Jones said.

But revenue from the one pot shop in Sedgwick has provided an injection of much-needed cash. State law prohibits sharing data on revenue in such small markets, but the income has been enough for the town to build a park and turn an old jail into a history museum.

“It has worked for our town so far,” Jones said of legal weed sales.

But the gravy train may not last forever in this sparsely populated part of the state — officials from nearby towns are calling Sedgwick for information and advice about selling pot.

But Sullivan doesn’t think competition is a death knell for Sedgwick’s future economic health. Aside from recreational and medicinal marijuana sales, there are a number of associated industries to cannabis that the town could explore and develop — such as hemp and hemp seed sales.

“There’s a lot yet to be discovered,” he said.