Colorado’s Economy Still Booming After Marijuana Legalization


Reefer Madness prohibitionists loudly screamed that the sky would fall in Colorado following marijuana legalization. They predicted increased violent crime, increased dangers on the highways and that there would be a huge spike in marijuana-addicted zombies ruining the state’s economy. Cannabis prohibitionists like to claim that the social costs of marijuana outweigh the tax revenue and law enforcement savings, often comparing marijuana to alcohol and tobacco, but those comparisons don’t hold water as one can easily compare the number of deaths attributed to the various substances.

With such proclamations from supposed mainstream voices, it isn’t surprising that D.A.R.E. would fall for a satirical website and claim that marijuana-infused edibles recently killed a dozen Coachella concert goers. Opponents of cannabis legalization have been so wrong on their predictions, that they make Dick Morris and Chicken Little seem reasonable. The best and the brightest of the cannabis prohibitionist movement in this country proclaimed in January of 2014, that, “Voters in other states should watch Colorado closely and engage in a deep conversation about where they want this country to go. Buyer, beware.” Well, if voters in other states are paying attention and deciding whether they want to buy or sell what Colorado is doing, I’m predicting that they will be screaming, “Buy! Buy! Buy!”

Normal indicators of success, show that legalization has been successful. Law enforcement has been freed up, the state is saving resources and marijuana sales are generating millions of dollars in additional revenue. The worst fears spouted by the Reefer Madness circuit have proven to be unfounded as violent crime is down, highway fatalities haven’t increased and the state’s economy hasn’t gone down the tubes. In fact, Colorado’s economy is booming and most states would love to switch places with Colorado as Business Insider recently ranked Colorado as the nation’s 3rd best economy during the first quarter of 2015. Washington, the other state with legalized adult cannabis commerce, was ranked 8th.

Recently, on the Fox Business Channel, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was interviewed by “Opening Bell” host Maria Bartiromo and Ms. Bartiromo gushed about Colorado’s economy, stating that she had to “give a shout out” to the state for its extremely low unemployment rate of 4.2%, “way below the national average.” She asked the governor how the state was doing so well creating jobs and he gave credit to Colorado as a destination for millennials. Millennials, often derived as self-absorbed and lazy, certainly seem to be on the right side of history on social issues, so it was good to hear the governor give the young kids some credit.

When asked about marijuana, Governor Hickenlooper mentioned that the issue “wasn’t as vexing” as he and other opponents of legalization once thought; that use hasn’t spiked; and that the state is doing a good job regulating the substance. The governor expects about $100 million in new tax revenue in 2015, up from about $75 million in 2014. He also included some good news for cannabis consumers, stating that Colorado may soon lower taxes on marijuana. All in all, it looks like the cannabis legalization experiment is going well in Colorado and other states will soon be following suit. I too urge voters from across the country to look closely at all of the states legalizing cannabis. You will see that there is nothing to fear and that we will soon be sweeping cannabis prohibition into the same dust bin of history as alcohol prohibition and our great nation will be better off for it.

(Skip ahead to about 3:50 if you want to jump to the marijuana discussion)



Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.