One year ago, Colorado made U.S. history by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana. Despite predictions that Colorado would become the haven of bleary-eyed layabouts and toke-crazy criminals, the state has shown that legal weed benefits smokers and squares alike:
It's making money: The state brought in $36.5 million in tax revenue through the first 11 months of 2014, all thanks to medical and recreational marijuana. That's enough to send nearly 3,400 Colorado students to the University of Colorado, Boulder, for free. About $2 million of that tax revenue went to local governments, while $7 million went toward the construction of public schools.
People are happy with it: A year of legalized weed has not done much to change the opinions of Coloradans who approved the measure in the first place. Nine in 10 voters who supported legalization last year said they would vote for it again, according to a Survey USA poll conducted for the Denver Post. In fact, 65-plus was the only age group that didn't give majority support for legalization marijuana nationwide.
Crime hasn't shot up: Critics of the policy warned of stoned car accidents, sick children and other ramifications of legalization. As Vox explains, serious crime actually went down in Denver last year, and car accidents are near all-time lows. There was a small increase in emergency room visits for children related to edible pot, but not enough to sound the alarm.
There have been a few issues, but it's mostly the feds' fault: The sale and regulation of a product that's legal on a state level but considered a Schedule I drug by the federal government can lead to some issues that need working around, even when the federal government generally supports the decisions of the state. The Colorado marijuana industry is getting its own credit union because banks don't want to store literal drug money. Workers can still be fired for marijuana use, despite its legal status — although that case is still making its way through the court system.
Other states are trying to harsh the mellow: The attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska are suing Colorado over what they say are increased law enforcement costs on the border thanks to legalized weed. Marijuana is being trafficked into their states, the suit claims, calling the legalization unconstitutional. While this is unlikely to lead the drug back to illegal status, it's a good reminder that not every state is happy with the direction things are going.
It's still early: One year, of course, is hardly enough time to pass judgment on public policy. There's still time for revenue to increase or decrease over the next few years, or for new legal questions to arise regarding the drug's status as it pertains to other states or even the federal government.
But for now, things seem to be looking up. Colorado is providing an example for other states considering legalization that things don't go to hell in a handbasket because of a little weed.