If the success of Colorado’s experiment in legal marijuana was in any doubt, new numbers out of the state should put those worries to rest.
From January through December 2015, the Colorado cannabis industry pulled down almost $1 billion in revenue, according to The Denver Post. The newspaper analyzed statistics released in February by the state’s Department of Revenue.
There was a 42 percent increase between 2014 and last year, according to the Cannabis Business Alliance. The group issued a press statement praising the success of legalization and the $135 million in taxes raised by the industry. About $35 million of that money will pay for school construction projects.
“With greater growth and continuation of operators entering the industry, Cannabis Business Alliance members and Colorado operators have continually set the standard of the maturing industry nationwide,” said Mark Slaugh, a board member at the organization.
The industry continues to boom
The industry, Slaugh said, is booming even as lawmakers impose new regulations, including labeling rules and portion controls for edibles. “Amidst increasing regulation,” the industry is proving its legs, he said.
Colorado voters legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, as did voters in Washington. Oregon and Alaska joined them in 2014, along with the District of Columbia.
The experiment has been a major success, with crime rates declining, reduced unemployment, fewer people driving drunk, and arrest rates plummeting. Business has been brisk since the first pot shops opened across Colorado in January 2014.
Prices have dropped and sales have increased
The pace of sales has risen dramatically since those early days, as more stores have opened, prices have dropped, and customers have become more comfortable with buying legal cannabis.
Sales are also soaring in other states where the drug is legal for personal use. Nationwide, the legal weed industry generated $5.4 billion in 2015, a figure that could explode in coming years as more states legalize.
Among other things, proponents say, that kind of money suggests marijuana users are happy to buy their supply legally. That willingness could make the idea of legalization more appealing to voters and lawmakers in other states.
“Squeezing out the black market”
“Coloradans are proving they prefer to buy cannabis from the regulated, legal industry rather than the black market,” said Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group. “Our industry has helped turn around Colorado’s economy, boosted tourism, revitalized business districts, and is squeezing out the black market. Colorado is proving that a licensed, tightly regulated marijuana industry is the way to go.”
Other states appear to agree. Nevada, Maine, California, and several others are likely to vote on the question in November, and the odds of success in many of these places is believed to be high. Even if they don’t all legalize, at least one of them likely will.
The big prize is California, where a legal marijuana industry could generate far more money than in Colorado. The state would likely take in several billion dollars over the first few years after legalization, a haul that could convince even more states to join the movement.