Colorado has now generated more than US$1 billion in cannabis-related tax revenues, marking another milestone for the U.S. state that has become synonymous with marijuana legalization, and has done so for recreational use since 2014.
The Colorado Department of Revenue reported the landmark figure last week, which was comprised from marijuana taxes, licenses and fees on the state’s total sales, which have exceeded US$6.5 billion since legalization began, the department said.
In the five years since the sale of recreational pot began, 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses have popped up across Colorado, and a total of 41,076 people are licensed to work in the industry, according to the CDOR. The hefty tax revenues from legal cannabis have been able to fund state-wide programs that include mental health services, substance abuse programs, and various public education projects.
And while the Mile High state has seen opponents suggest the flourishing legal industry comes with social costs, Gov. Jared Polis has given legal weed full support:
This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction
And a big part of the state’s continued support for legalization also surrounds the education of marijuana and to keep users informed about risks.
Today, more adults know the laws around retail marijuana, more parents are planning to talk to their children about the risks of marijuana use, and most young women know the danger of marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding
– Tista Ghosh, Colorado Department of Public Health
Just like with any adult-use substance, there’s going to be an opportunity for abuse and that’s why knowing the risks is crucial. With the public being more informed about when not to use cannabis and its possible side effects, more positive results will come for the users and the industry as a whole.
Progress being made in other States
Colorado wasn’t the only state to see massive cannabis revenues. Massachusetts recently hit US$139 million in total sales as of the end of May, which have been growing rapidly since the legal adult-use market launched in November last year. In the eastern state, sales have been rising over 20 per cent each month.
In Nevada, the industry has also been flourishing with many tourists flocking to the state’s pot shops, giving them another reason to visit, especially those from areas where cannabis is still illegal.
After optimism started at the beginning of the year and was then quashed in recent weeks, New York is making a last-minute push to legalize before the current legislative session ends Wednesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to compromise with hesitant senators over political disagreements about how marijuana taxes revenues should spent.
If marijuana legalization is to continue to progress into new states, especially in traditionally conservative ones, lawmakers will need to see data and evidence to show health risks can be mitigated and the drug can be effectively controlled and kept out of hands of young people.
Misinformation persists relating the effects of cannabis, which can sway the minds of people. But new opinions can only be formed with new studies and factual data that can also help shape laws and regulations.