While a number of states have decided to jump on the recreational marijuana bandwagon over the past few years, the movement would be less emboldened without the proven success of Colorado. Nowadays, a number of lawmakers are turning to the Rocky Mountain region for advice on how to implement cannabis legalization the right way.
Thanks to the legalization of recreational cannabis sales in 2014, an incredible amount of tax revenue and economic opportunities have been created across The Centennial State. Earlier this week, canna-centric government relations and strategic communication firm VS Strategies published an analysis revealing that retail marijuana sales have generated more than $500 million in tax revenue for Colorado.
According to publicly available data released by Colorado’s Department of Revenue, this milestone was originally surpassed in May 2017. The report goes on to detail the annual growth of the state’s collected taxes and fees. In 2014, sales totaled $76 million, followed by $135 million in 2015, and up to $198 million in 2016. This year, projections are that the upward trend will continue, as sales have already totaled $96 million over the first five months. To celebrate this monetary benchmark of $500 million in tax revenue, both Mason Tvert and Brian Vicente of VS Strategies presented Rep. Jonathan Singer with a symbolic check for a half-billion dollars.
While this amount of tax revenue is staggering in its own right, the way that Colorado has allocated that revenue is what has made legalization a true success. The VS Strategies report claims that 51.3 percent of the funding has gone directly towards public education. The remaining tax revenue been used to maintain criminal justice and substance abuse programs. For instance, the city of Aurora has found this spike in funding to be extremely beneficial, using $1.5 million to help fight homelessness in the city, improve roads, and build a new rec center.
Still, some remain wary of the impact the recreational cannabis has had on Colorado’s economy and public safety. Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, claims that the tax revenue doesn’t “even make a dent” in the cost of schools. He even went so far as to state that “pot revenue is not newsworthy,” considering that the Colorado Department of Education needs an estimated $18 billion in construction funds alone.
Although this cannabis tax revenue may not totally solve Colorado's $700 million state budget deficit or save every local school from lack of funding, there’s no denying the economic boost that have come out of legalization.