By the Numbers: How Legalization is Changing Colorado’s Economy
Colorado has changed the course of marijuana prohibition by becoming the first state to not just legalize marijuana for personal use and possession, but also limiting home-growing of marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older.
While much of the focus this year has been on the implementation of Colorado’s first recreational sales, which began January 1, it is important to reflect on and recognize all the changes marijuana legalization has fostered for the people of Colorado and the beginning of the end of the war on cannabis.
Arrests and Citations
According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, law enforcement made 10,493 arrests in 2010 in Colorado for minor marijuana possession at levels now completely legal in the state. Nationwide, possession arrests equaled up to 658,231, or one every 48 seconds, in 2012. To date, Colorado and 15 other states have taken the necessary steps to decriminalize marijuana and remove their citizens from the life-altering consequences of the criminal justice system.
According to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP), Colorado immediately began to save $14 million annually through Amendment 64 as a result of reduced criminal costs. Once courts and prisons fully adapt to the new system, savings from criminal possession alone, will rise to an annual $40 million.
Colorado has generated $47 million dollars annually in combined state, local and excise taxes of marijuana. $24 million of this has been promised to the Division of Public School Capital Construction Assistance. The CCA uses resources such as these to fund their many programs including: dropout and bullying prevention, special education programs, library development, school nutrition and English as a second language programs.
Many have voiced concerns about patients, and soon to be recreational consumers, driving while under the influence of marijuana. In May 2013, House Bill 1325 passed in the Colorado senate, requiring drivers suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana to test under 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood for THC. As with previous marijuana DUI bills, opponents believe this limit is too low and several people, including pot critic William Breathes of Denver’s Westword magazine, have attempted to test this belief. In his report, Breathes had his blood drawn to test THC levels after abstaining from cannabis for 15 hours and a full night of sleep. His THC results were nearly three times the proposed acceptable limit. While little has been reported since the bill passed in May, Colorado may see an increase of arrests in 2014 for intoxicated driving.
While it’s difficult to nail down job openings and job growth in numbers at this time, it’s abundantly clear the Green Rush has generated thousands of new employment opportunities, everything from state government work to bud tenders, laboratory testers, researchers, receptionists, sales clerks, advertisers, marketers, designers, tourism and hospitality… there is no shortage of jobs in the cannabis industry and many more openings are projected to appear in the coming year.
As with any floodgate, the good comes with the bad. Fortunately, for proponents of cannabis, once the doors are open they are near impossible to close again. We’re not out of the dark and tangled woods of prohibition just yet, but at least we’re clearing the trail.