The numbers are in, and in a development that will delight pro-pot activists and further alienate marijuana's detractors, the state of Colorado's experiment in legal weed has proved a resounding success.
According to a report by the Colorado Department of Revenues published on Feb. 27, 38,660 pounds of retail weed was sold in the state in 2014, in addition to 2,850,733 units of "retail edible products." (That's a lot of brownies.) Medical marijuana sales, the traditional driver of the legal marijuana industry, also remained brisk. The report offers irrefutable proof that the market for recreational marijuana is both considerable and growing. In an analysis, the Washington Post concluded that the state was on target to take in "$63 million in tax revenue, with an additional $13 million collected in licenses and fees."
As previously reported on Mic, the Centennial State has also seen a major drop in crime since legalization as police resources ordinarily used for marijuana enforcement were freed up for other areas. The city of Denver alone saw an almost 25% drop in the number of murders from 2013 to 2014, according to government data.
Democracy works: Recreational use of marijuana became legal in Colorado after voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012. The amendment opened the door to legal weed by permitting those "21 years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana." The amendment was approved by voters over the strenuous opposition of the state's Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who ominously reminded residents that marijuana still remained illegal at the federal level, and warned not to "break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."
Fears of a federal "big brother" putting an end to Colorado's pot party have largely proved unfounded. In 2013, President Barack Obama indicated that he would not enforce the ban on states which voted to legalize as long as the market was "regulated." Last year the federal government also effectively ended its ban on medical marijuana.
A budding industry: Far from a clampdown, legalization in Colorado has since paved the way for a booming rise in marijuana-related tourism. A visit to ColoradoPotGuide.com offers everything from marijuana tours, cooking classes and accommodating hotels.
"People are coming in from all over the country and all over the world," an operations manager at High Country Cannabis Tours who asked to be identified as Yanni Appleseed told Mic. According to its website, High Country offers "hands-on workshops, world-class accommodations and epic tours to freedom-loving peoples" and hotels amply furnished with "state-of-the-art bongs, vapes and dab rigs" (smoking paraphernalia, for the uninitiated). "We had no idea what to expect from this," said Appleseed. "It was an entrepreneur's dream come true."
For icing on the cake, the Colorado Springs Gazette has reported that all that legal weed money may also result in a one-time tax break for residents. The "reefer refund" results from a quirk in Colorado law which states that excess tax revenue must be returned to residents when the state initiates a new tax that year, which in this case, was a 28% "pot tax."
Or, as Yanni Appleseed put it, "It's going off."