The sale of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado has been legal for six months as of Tuesday. Anti-pot critics’ fears have not come true and tax revenue for the state has surpassed expectations. Crime rates are down, tourists are flocking to the Centennial State and unlike many other parts of the U.S., the economy is not in the toilet. What started off as a social experiment is turning out to be a model for other states to adopt if they choose to legalize any time soon.
Contrary to the fears of critics, crime rates have dropped steadily since marijuana was legalized on Jan. 1, 2014. Overall crime has dropped over 10 percent while violent crime rates have decreased 5.3 percent. During the same time period in 2013, murders in the city of Denver have been halved. While people are being arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, far more DUI offenders are arrested for alcohol. Since the sale of marijuana for recreational use has become legal, police have been able to divert their attention from marijuana related crimes, saving the state as much as $40 million in court costs.
By the end of this year, marijuana sales are expected to surpass $600 million which is two times more than the initial projections. Governor John Hickenlooper expects that number to be around $1 billion in the next fiscal year. Most of the tax revenue earned from pot sales will help fund Colorado’s public schools, therefore we will get to see if there is a direct correlation between public funding and school performance.
There is no evidence of economic downfall in Colorado as a result of legal marijuana, in fact it seems to have helped the state’s economy tremendously. Governor Hickenlooper stated, "While the rest of the country's economy is slowly picking back up, we're thriving here in Colorado." With more than 2,000 licensed marijuana businesses employing over 10,000 people, Colorado is seeing green. It’s difficult to project how marijuana has affected tourism, as Colorado’s ski industry fuels much of the state’s out-of-state income, but one dispensary owner says at least 20 percent of his customers are from the rest of the U.S. and other parts of the globe.
If there was one flaw in the past six months of legalized marijuana, it would lie in the lack of standards regarding edibles. Drinks, sweets and a variety of other snacks laced with weed can vary wildly in their dosage. Eating pot is far more psychoactive than smoking it and makes overdoing it way too easy. State officials are drafting up a law to limit the dosage of marijuana-infused edibles that can be sold and are labeling the matter one of “public safety.” Another pending downside to legalization would be the company poised to become the “Walmart of weed.” There’s big tobacco, big liquor, big pharma and more; potheads and hipsters alike would no doubt see big weed as “lame, man.”
More and more states are jumping on the bandwagon and marijuana naysayers of recent past are becoming less opposed to its use for medical or recreational purposes. Granted, the full spectrum of legalization has only been under the microscope for six months, the long-term effects of legally sold cannabis are far from certain at this point. More than 50 percent of Americans now support legalization of marijuana, hinting at the question of when the United States will totally legalize it, not if.