It’s easy to miss Moffat—a 120-person town in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley that has long been known for its agricultural and ranching history.
But if Mike Biggio has his way, this little outpost on the edge of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will soon be re-branded to reflect the future of a dying canyon.
Welcome to Kush, Colorado.
“I want to establish it as a world-renowned cannabis sector,” Bigio said.
Five years ago, Bigio and his business partners founded Area 420, a collection of 70 grow operations in the city, possibly representing the highest concentration of cannabis growers in Colorado.
Now Bigeo wants the city’s name to reflect its economic engine: “Kush,” a nickname for marijuana named after the Hindu Kush mountain range in south-central Asia, could be the next Humboldt County, California, he said. Napa Valley for the bud.
“It will show that the city has both legs and reflects the new culture here,” he said.
Biggio’s effort to rename the city begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at a meeting of Moffat’s board of trustees. The city lacks the ability to display PowerPoint presentations, so Bigeo printed pages of proof that it could be done: the Wikipedia page for the Hindu Kush, a list of a radio station’s past Colorado name changes, and Forbes’ The articles talk about the tourism boom stemming from legal weeds. Tuesday’s meeting is strictly informational, an opening salute before any votes are taken.
The craziest part of all this? Biggio can get the support he needs.
“Change is always good,” said Moffat Mayor Cassandra Foxx, who said she would vote for Kush. “The most dangerous phrase is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ It is the death of society.”
Moffat is an anomaly, a cannabis oasis in the deep reds of Colorado that isn’t too eager to grow or bring to dispensaries.
But cannabis has disproportionately rejuvenated the city, Foxx said. Since Area 420 took root five years ago, tax revenue has skyrocketed to a place where there was almost none before: $80,000 quickly turned into $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 new water and sewer systems, school upgrades, refurbishment and housing development.
“This city just existed,” Foxx said of life before Area 420. “They were just there. The status quo was maintained. Then Area 420 came and brought industry to us. It has been exponential growth.”
Long-lived JW Matthews called the push for Kush “fantastic.”
“We need fresh blood,” he said. “The name change would be a good thing, a positive step.”
However, not everyone is dying to get Kush on the map.
“Change the name?” Town Trustee Ken Skoglund said. “(not detectable!”
The longtime Moffat resident considers Bigio a friend, who hired Skoglund’s quarrying business to build the Weed Enclave. He supports Area 420 and it’s all done for the city and is even willing to market cannabis as part of the city’s attractions.
But calling the city Kush?
“It’s too much,” Skoglund said. “It’s not about the money. It’s about right and wrong and the people we represent.”
It doesn’t happen much now, but Colorado municipalities have a long, rich history of renaming.
Telluride was known as Columbia prior to 1887, but changed its name as the US Postal Service continued to deliver mail to a city with the same name in California. Eldora was known as Eldorado, but had the same problems as Telluride. Aspen was called the City of Ute in the late 19th century.
Biggio says another reason for the name change is that the city is often confused with Moffat County, which is located in the far northwest corner of the state. That confusion led to a cannabis cultivator in town ripping up $100,000 worth of plants weeks earlier, anticipating a frost for Craig, not Moffatt.
“The name isn’t just meant to be cute,” he said.
City officials say they are still figuring out how the change can happen – whether it will take a ballot measure or a petition. Biggio said citizens worry about redoing all their paperwork if city names change.
“Let’s put it as a proper democratic measure and let the public speak,” Biggio said.