Cannabis Progression in Colorado

As an American, we're pretty sure you're aware of the old argument over the legalization of Marijuana. Those who are in support of the movement believe that people should have power over their body as well as what goes into it — this is completely reasonable. However, opponents feel that individual drug use could lead to increased crime and health problems in the society, but this has not been the case in the very first state that legalized cannabis.

Colorado was one of the first states to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana, and things have been going smoothly ever since the state's voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012. Right now, it's completely legal to grow, consume and sell marijuana in the state. It's important to note that the legalization of cannabis in Colorado is nothing new — the state has been actively working towards its legalization for over forty years.

Let us take a look at the history of the herb.

Brief History

For starters, marijuana received a nationwide ban in 1937. The ban was made due to claims about the drug's ability to cause men of color to lose control and solicit sex from white women. This imagery became the trigger for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which effectively banned its use and sales across the United States.

For the most part, Marijuana was initially decriminalized in Colorado in 1975. In essence, the “drug” was considered illegal but no jail time was attached to being caught with it. Punishment was only issued in the form of fines.

Things started getting better in 2000 — this was the year Colorado legalized cannabis for medical purposes in the 20th amendment to its constitution. At this time, people with certain health issues could legally possess up to six cannabis plants and carry up to two ounces of the drug as long as they could get a prescription from a doctor.

Finally, in 2014, the state legalized recreational cannabis in the 64th amendment to its constitution. Ever since the legalization, any adult above 21 can legally smoke or ingest the herb so long as they aren’t doing it in public. Furthermore, people can grow up to six marijuana plants indoors. Also, traveling with an ounce of marijuana and giving up to one ounce as a gift became entirely legal.

The best part? January 1st, 2014 witnessed the opening of the first cannabis shop in Colorado as the growing, manufacture, and sale of the plant became fully legalized. Since then, the state has seen a number of promising results that are nothing short of amazing.

Here are some positive outcomes of Cannabis Legalization in Colorado.

Welcome to Colorado highway sign with marijuana leaf

Boost in Economic Activity and Reduction in Unemployment Rate

For starters, this policy has helped reduce the rate of unemployment in Colorado to the barest minimum — it happens to be the lowest level on record. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, up to 10,000 new jobs were created in the first year of the legalization of the production and sale of marijuana. The best part? These new jobs tend to pay well above the national minimum wage.

Moreover, legal marijuana has become a huge business for the state with an impact of $2.4 billion in 2015 alone. According to a report from the Marijuana Policy Group, the industry also funded over 18,000 new full-time jobs (direct and secondary) in 2015. A recent report by CNBC also indicates that legal cannabis has added about $200 million in tax revenue. This is a significant boost considering the state has one of the lowest rates of sales tax in the United States.

Furthermore, the Marijuana Policy Group have projected that Colorado's cannabis industry will surpass tobacco by 2020 as of source of tax revenue. All these stats indicate that the legal cannabis industry in Colorado is huge and the rate at which the industry created jobs in the first few months after legalization is simply amazing. One can only imagine what will happen to the country's economy if it agrees to nationwide legalization.

Increase in Colorado Tourism

According to travel site Hopper.com, the demand for airline tickets to Denver witnessed a significant increase just only a month after Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana. There was up to 63% from Nashville, 58% from Minneapolis 53% from Detroit. Most observers are extremely sure that the increase was due to visitors' interest in buying cannabis and other related products.

Moreover, the ski industry in Colorado enjoyed its biggest season during winter of 2014 to 2015, and this was partly due to the additional attraction of legal marijuana. According to a survey for 2015 to 2016 ski season, up to 4% of surveyed visitors said legal cannabis was one of the reasons they took a trip to Colorado, 7% said legal marijuana was in their top three reasons for taking a trip to the state and up to 12% stopped at a dispensary while traveling to Colorado. With these results, we can conclude that access to legal marijuana had a significant effect on many skier’s decision to visit Colorado and that's huge.

Lower Crime and Arrest Rates

Another remarkable thing about the decriminalization of marijuana is the significant decrease in Colorado's crime rate. Contrary to some critics' expectations, the state's overall crime rates dropped by 2.5% in 2014, and the trend continued to 2015 as crime rates also fell by 1.0% accordingly.

It's obvious that the decriminalization of cannabis in Colorado has reduced the rate of marijuana-related arrests among adults. Moreover, information from the Colorado Court System for 2015 indicate that marijuana possession arrests reduced by 81% (that's from 10,340 to 1,954) — this is a very dramatic effect compared to how it was in 2012. Another good thing is, the significant reduction in arrests had a positive effect on the cost of processing drug-related cases in the state's judicial system. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, it costs the state of Colorado up to $300 in court to judge average cannabis-related cases — in essence; the cost dropped from $3.1 million in 2012 to $586,000 in 2015. The good thing is, both government and citizens will enjoy the positive economic effects of legal marijuana, and that's great. In other words, the state's judicial system and arrestees will be free from unnecessary economic costs that typically come with court cases.

 

So there you have it! As you can see, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has brought nothing but positive results that other states can benefit from. Rise in tax receipts, reduction in crime rates and a significant increase in employment — what more could you possibly ask for? The best part? Estimates from GreenWave Advisers anticipate that the U.S. cannabis retail market could top $35 billion in revenue by 2020 if full nationwide legalization were to occur — now that's a whole lot of cash.

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Ilan Freeman