The year 2016 was a complicated one for many people, but it was clearly a banner year for marijuana. The number of legal states jumped to eight as Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and California joined Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska with legal marijuana. Of course the number is 9 if you included our nation’s capital. Support for legal cannabis hit all-time highs in several polls, including 60% in the yearly Gallup Poll. And it was the year that the Colorado cannabis market generated $1.3 billion in sales, creating almost $200 million in new state taxes.
As The Cannabist reports, Colorado has shown growth since it became the first state with regulated sales, but a slowdown could be on the horizon:
To put the state’s third year of regulated recreational marijuana sales in perspective, Year One totaled $699.2 million (combined with medical sales) and Year Two jumped up to $996.2 million. The trend should continue in Year Four, but beyond that? It’s a murkier proposition.
“Colorado has had a really good run, being the first mover,” said Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, which provides economic and market consulting services to legal cannabis markets. “Now, as other states legalize, some of these external benefits that are occurring are going to be eroded.”
Light noted that in 2017, none of the eight states that voted to legalize the medical or recreational use of marijuana will have implemented their regulations.
Mason Tvert, the Denver-based director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, released a statement today on Colorado’s historic sales numbers:
“Over one billion dollars in marijuana sales that once took place in the underground market were instead conducted in regulated businesses this year. The state received nearly $200 million in marijuana tax revenue, whereas just a decade ago it was receiving zero. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call for the 42 states that still choose to force marijuana sales into the criminal market and forego millions of dollars in tax revenue.
“Marijuana tax revenue is not going to cover the state’s budget, but it is going to cover important programs and services that would otherwise be left out of it. This money is just the tip of the iceberg. The state is also reaping the invaluable public health and safety benefits of replacing an underground market with a tightly regulated system. Marijuana is now being sold in licensed businesses, rather than out on the street. It is being properly tested, packaged, and labeled, and it is only being sold to adults who show proof of age. The system is working.”
Some Reefer Madness prohibitionists wrongly predicted that legal cannabis would never generate significant tax revenue. After states started generating millions of dollars anti-cannabis prohibitionists have changed their tune, now downplaying the new revenue as insignificant to state’s overall budgets. Of course, these Reefer Madness propagandists are found to be wrong again and again.
These prohibitionists are short-sighted as they aren’t acknowledging the full economic impact of the new cannabis industry or the amount of good this additional money does for our schools, public health programs and public safety agencies. While prohibitionists are trying to take away the freedom, jobs and revenue that the cannabis industry creates, tax numbers like these in Colorado, and elsewhere, are only going to strengthen our standing with voters across the nation.