Colorado Rolling in Totally Legit Drug Money

Legalizing marijuana is paying off for state taxpayers

Since legalizing marijuana last year, Colorado’s successes have astounded naysayers. In addition to raising about $60 million in tax revenue, the pot industry has created thousands of jobs and small businesses, brought a boom to tourism, and inspired more than a few unique festivals. Legalization has even helped the ailing journalism industry—this past April the Denver Post appointed its very first weed critic.

The only catch? The state now has more money than it knows what to do with. As per Colorado law, the Colorado Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, within the state constitution, has a cap on how much in taxes can be collected before a surplus must be cycled back to the people. Meaning that a large chunk of that $60 million in cannabis coinage could hypothetically land in the pockets of average Colorado citizens. In a rare show of agreement, both Democrats and Republicans are perplexed on what should be done with these funds—but say there is “no point” in returning the money to taxpayers. The deluge should instead be filtered back into the community via drug education and police training—notably on how to deal with the glut of incredibly stoned residents. To settle the dispute, Coloradans may end up needing to vote on exemption of marijuana from the tax cap.

As for those fears that legalizing marijuana would cause a breakdown in the fabric of society: “We found there hasn't been much of a change of anything," a Denver police officer told the CBC in January.

Colorado's landmark vote in 2012, in conjunction with Washington state, has since led Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. to act on legalization, and scores of other states to seriously consider such a move. With the success of Colorado’s cannabis industry, and its effect on the local economy, we can’t help but wonder if cash strapped areas like Detroit might benefit from a similar strategy? Just think of all the green (dollars that is) a move like this might bring.


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