The news: On Wednesday, when recreational marijuana became legally available to Colorado consumers, pot shop owners across the state believe they collectively made more than $1 million in a single day of business.
Colorado had 24 shops open Wednesday, most of them in Denver. Many people — 21 and older — braved wintry weather to line up outside of weed shops, carrying out their purchase in a brown bag.
Residents can purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at one time for recreational purposes. Non-residents can purchase up to a quarter ounce.
State officials expect up to $578,000,000 in first-year sales revenue, as well as $67 million in tax revenue, which will be used to build schools and fund regulatory efforts.
The background: While robust, this $1 million-in-a-day figure should come as no surprise to those familiar with the underground economics of the marijuana industry in the U.S.
There are several estimates on how profitable the nationwide illicit marijuana industry is, but added together, you get a range of $10 billion to more than $120 billion a year in sales. In context, the market for brewed beverages (i.e. beer) in America teeters over $100 billion. Some studies argue that marijuana is the largest cash crop in the U.S., surmounting the combined value of corn ($23.3 billion) and wheat ($7.5 billion).
That gives a sense at how big Colorado's marijuana market could be.
The takeaway: The harms and benefits of medicinal marijuana have been well-documented (though, despite what you may have recently read, nobody has ever died from smoking weed), but there are still big-name advocates pushing against legalization.
New York Times’ op-ed columnist, David Brooks argued on Thursday that Colorado was “nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be,” and that he stopped smoking because of “a vague sense that smoking weed was not exactly something you were proud of yourself for.”
Nowhere in the op-ed does Brooks mention the enormous economic boon weed would have, or the wide range of medicinal uses it has ... from easing the pain of cancer patients to curing the PTSD of veterans
It's also safer for you than other, legal, "morally wrong" substances, like alcohol, for example. According to the CDC, alcohol is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation, directly associated with 88,000 deaths a year. Drinking produces unintentional injuries, violence, sexual misconduct, and alcohol poisoning. Not to mention the enormous physical costs of alcohol abuse.
In 2013, 52% thought that marijuana should be legalized with 45% opposed. According to Pew, this is an 11-point jump from 2010, where 45% thought it should be legalized and 50% opposed legalization. 2010 was when Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California, was defeated 53%-46%. And of course this is a dramatic swing from 1969, when nearly eight out of 10 Americans were opposed to legalization.
There's a reason the green is rolling in Colorado.