It’s easy to miss Moffat — a 120-person town in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley that long has been known for its agriculture and ranching history.
But if Mike Biggio has his way, this tiny outpost on the edge of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve soon will be rebranded to reflect what he views as the future of a dying valley.
Welcome to Kush, Colorado.
“I’m looking to establish this as a world-renowned cannabis region,” Biggio said.
Five years ago, Biggio and his business partner founded Area 420, a collection of 70 grow operations in town that likely represents the highest concentration of cannabis producers in Colorado.
Now Biggio wants the town’s name to showcase its economic engine: “Kush,” a moniker for marijuana named after the Hindu Kush mountain range in south-central Asia, could be the next Humboldt County, California, he said. The Napa Valley for bud.
“This would show the town has both feet in on this and reflect the new culture here,” he said.
Biggio’s effort to change the town’s name begins 7 p.m. Tuesday at Moffat’s Board of Trustees meeting. The town lacks the ability to showcase PowerPoint presentations, so Biggio has printed out pages of evidence that this can be done: Wikipedia pages for the Hindu Kush, a radio station’s list of previous Colorado name changes and Forbes articles talking about tourism booms precipitated by legal weed. Tuesday’s meeting is strictly informational, an opening salvo before any votes are taken.
The craziest part of all this? Biggio may well have the support he needs.
“Change is always good,” said Cassandra Foxx, Moffat’s mayor, who said she’d vote for Kush. “The most dangerous phrase is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ That’s the death of society.”
Moffat is an anomaly, a cannabis oasis in a deeply red swath of Colorado not too keen on bringing in grows or dispensaries.
But cannabis has unequivocally reinvigorated the town, Foxx said. Since Area 420 took root five years ago, tax revenue has skyrocketed in a place that had virtually none beforehand: $80,000 quickly became $120,000 per year. Then $200,000. Last year Moffat took in some $400,000 in excise taxes — nearly all of which came from the marijuana industry.
The infusion of cash has been used to fund research for a new water and sewer system, school upgrades, fresh paving and housing development.
“This town was able to just exist,” Foxx said of life before Area 420. “They were just there. The status quo was kept. Then Area 420 came and brought us industry. It’s been exponential growth.”
Longtime resident J.W. Matthews called the push for Kush “brilliant.”
“We need fresh blood,” he said. “The name change is gonna be a great thing, a positive step forward.”
Not everyone is dying to get Kush on the map, though.
“The name change?” said town trustee Ken Skoglund. “(Expletive) no!”
The longtime Moffat resident considers Biggio a friend, someone who hired Skoglund’s excavation business to build the weed enclave. He supports Area 420 and all it’s done for the town and is even willing to market cannabis as part of the town’s allure.
But calling the town Kush?
“That’s overreach,” Skoglund said. “It’s not about money. It’s about right and wrong and we represent the people.”
It doesn’t happen much anymore, but Colorado municipalities have a long, rich history of altering their names.
Telluride, before 1887, was known as Columbia, but changed its name because the U.S. Postal Service kept delivering people’s mail to a town by the same name in California. Eldora used to be known as Eldorado, but had the same problem as Telluride. Aspen was called Ute City into the late 19th century.
Biggio says another reason for the name change is that the town is often confused with Moffat County, which sits in the far northwest corner of the state. That confusion caused one cannabis cultivator in town to rip up $100,000 worth of plants weeks early, anticipating a frost destined for Craig, not Moffat.
“The name isn’t just to be cute,” he said.
Town officials say they’re still figuring out how a change could even happen — whether it would take a ballot measure or a petition. Biggio said concerns about citizens having to redo all their paperwork if the town flips names are overblown.
“Let’s put this up to whatever fair democratic measure and let the public speak,” Biggio said.
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