In November 2012, Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. One month later, it officially became legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. On January 1, 2014, adults throughout the state began purchasing marijuana in a legal, regulated market. Here’s what has happened since…
- Support for the state’s new marijuana laws is just as strong as it was when it passed, and opposition has decreased. A November 2015 Quinnipiac University poll found Colorado voters still support the law 55-41. Quinnipiac polls conducted in April and February 2015 also found strong majority support and declining opposition.
- In July 2014, the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management published a 35-page report titled, “Colorado’s Rollout of Legal Marijuana Is Succeeding.” According to the report, “[Colorado] has made intelligent decisions about regulatory needs, the structure of distribution, prevention of illegal diversion, and other vital aspects of its new market. It has made those decisions in concert with a wide variety of stakeholders in the state.”
Regulation, Local Control & Criminal Justice Savings
- Since January 1, 2014, more than $800 million in non-medical marijuana sales have taken place in legitimate, taxpaying businesses instead of in the underground market, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. These state- and locally licensed establishments have been subject to strict testing, packaging, and labeling requirements, which have been enforced through frequent compliance checks by state and local authorities.
- Colorado localities have the authority to prohibit marijuana establishments or regulate them and determine the time, place, manner, and number of establishment operations. More than 40 cities, as well as unincorporated areas in more than 20 counties, have established regulations.
- Marijuana-related cases in state courts dropped 77% in the year after Colorado removed penalties for simple adult marijuana possession, according to an analysis by the The Denver Post.
Public Health & Safety
- There has not been a significant increase in rates of marijuana use among Colorado adults, and rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among teens have remained unchanged since 2005, according to state and federal government surveys. The Colorado Department of Education reported increases in high school graduation rates and decreases in dropout rates every year since 2010.
- The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center (RMPDC) received 151 calls regarding marijuana exposure in 2014 — up from 88 in 2013 — including 45 that involved children 8 years of age and under. By comparison, in 2011, the RMPDC received 2,690 calls regarding children 5 and under being exposed to cosmetics and personal care products, 1,495 for exposure to household cleaning products, and 739 for exposure to vitamins.
- Colorado government and law enforcement officials have repeatedly stated that there is not enough data to draw any conclusions about the impact the states’ marijuana laws may or may not be having on crime rates and traffic safety. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported a 2.5% decrease in overall crime from 2013 to 2014, and according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), there were fewer fatal traffic accidents each year from 2009 to 2014 than any year from 2002 to 2005. While there has been a recent uptick in the number of fatal accidents, the state’s highway safety manager has said, “I truly cannot say marijuana is a factor in them.” In addition to not having enough years of data following the passage of Colorado’s marijuana regulation law, the state recently began conducting drug testing in more accidents than in previous years and overall traffic has increased over the past few years.
Tax Revenue & Job Creation
- Adult marijuana sales in Colorado during FY 2014-2015 generated nearly $80.5 million in state tax revenue, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, and marijuana-specific taxes raised approximately $28 million more than alcohol-specific taxes. These figures do not include standard local sales taxes, nor do they include special local sales taxes that have been adopted by localities that have opted to regulate marijuana.
- As of June 2015, there were more than 21,000 Colorado residents with valid occupational licenses to work in marijuana-related businesses, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Marijuana businesses also retain workers and utilize services from a wide variety of collateral sectors, such as construction, engineering, security, legal, insurance, real estate, and retail.
Economy, Business Climate & Tourism
- Colorado had the fastest-growing state economy in 2014 and the #3 best economy in the nation in 2015, according to Business Insider. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked it one of the top states for entrepreneurship and innovation in 2014, and its Kauffman Index ranking for startup activity climbed from #7 to #4 from 2014 to 2015.
- The Forbes list of 190 “best places for business” included five Colorado cities in the top 50, including Denver at #1 and Fort Collins at #10. Two of the cities where marijuana cultivation and sales have been most prominent rose significantly in the ranking since 2011: Denver moved from #9 to #1, and Boulder jumped from #44 to #26.
- Colorado tourism broke multiple records in 2014, including number of visitors and dollars spent, and the state is outpacing national growth rates in every tourism category, according to the Colorado Tourism Office. Denver’s convention and tourism bureau reported that the city hosted a record-high number of conventions in 2014, drawing more attendees and producing a larger economic impact than in any previous year.
- Colorado home prices saw the largest increase of any state in 2014, according to housing trend tracker CoreLogic, and they increased at some of the fastest rates in the nation in 2015.
- In 2015, Denver’s retail vacancy rate dropped to the lowest it has been since 2006, and its retail lease rate increased to the highest it has been since 2009, according to the Denver Business Journal.