Legal Marijuana Sales in Colorado Brought in Over $2 Billion in 2020
It should come as no surprise that many companies, such as Amazon and Netflix, saw ridiculous amounts of profits last year as the Covid pandemic swept the nation and left so many of us trapped at home. People streamed tv shows and movies until their eyes fell out and shopped online like there was no tomorrow. But the truly unprecedented, underdog story of an industry that saw astronomical growth and record profits in 2020 comes out of the state of Colorado, the O.G. in America for thorough marijuana legalization on the state level.
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, marijuana sales in 2020 reached a record high of $2.1 billion dollars. While sales have been on a steady increase since the state legalized it back in January 2014 after passing the Colorado Amendment 64, the pandemic of 2020 gave way to dispensaries in the state being deemed as essential, allowing businesses to stay open and continue serving the community.
Collectively, since legalizing it, the state as brought in over $10 billion in revenue. While being unprecedented and unsurprising at the same time, I believe these record numbers are a huge deal when it comes to legalization efforts in other states and eventually on the federal level. Seeing the sky high amount of money brought in by marijuana sales only helps to bolster arguments on why every state should consider legalization.
To truly understand the significance of these numbers, let’s analyze them, talk about what it all means for Colorado, and how their model could and should be an influence on lawmakers, politicians, and other states that may legalize it in the future.
A New Perspective on Legalization in Colorado
To truly understand just how big of a deal $2.1 billion profits earned in one year by one state really is, let’s begin by studying some facts and comparing it to other figures that might present a bit of a new perspective.
– The U.S. government spends around $79 billion a year on education. If all 50 states actively legalized it and brought in revenue close to $2 billion per year, those funds alone would cover the expense, and then some.
– According to AmericanProgress.org the federal government spends around $3.3 billion to incarcerate people convicted of drug related offenses. They also go on to state that states that legalize marijuana “would save roughly $7.7 billion per year in averted enforcement costs and would yield an additional $6 billion in tax revenue.”
– In 2019, the federal government spent a measly “$29 billion on infrastructure and transferred an additional $67 billion in infrastructure spending to states” according to USAfacts.org.
– Colorado’s first year of legalization gained the state so much money, that they had to give some back to citizens.
It is rare that a new form of revenue garners such astronomical amounts of revenue. But when you turn on the news, all you ever hear many politicians (particularly Republicans, because it’s built into their philosophy) talk about how there’s just not enough money to do much of anything such as improve on education and infrastructure. But it has truly been the American way to spend trillions of dollars a year on the military budget and other things that don’t directly impact tax payers and their day to day lives.
What Does This Mean For Colorado?
I’ve been trying like hell to find any negative effects of legalization in Colorado, and I honestly can’t come up with any. Since 2014, there has been a boom in tourism throughout the state with visitors coming from all walks of life to enjoy a place where marijuana is treated in a similar fashion to say alcohol. The state has presented legislation to allow marijuana delivery services and even the creation of weed-friendly “bars” where herb lovers and go to socialize and burn one.
A major argument against legalization was the idea that crime would rise as a result, but after a few years now that has been shown not to be the case. There were even fears that use among underage users would also rise, which also did not happen. As promised by the original legislation, revenue from pot has been used to educate the public on the “dangers” of use and money has been given to the state’s education sector.
But as the revenue continues to rise each year, there is still a heavy debate on the best ways to distribute the excess amount of money gained. This, in my opinion, is where the legalization effort led by activists will continue even in a world where the federal government legalizes it – the money gained shouldn’t just go to serve making the rich richer, but improving communities ravaged by the drug war, those incarcerated for marijuana related offenses, various social programs, etc.
Colorado Is Becoming An Influence to All of America
Over the years we have seen more states and politicians jump on the ‘legalize it’ bandwagon, but not nearly enough as there should be. Unfortunately, we still have those in power (such as our new president Joe Biden) touting age old, drug war era lies, such as the gateway drug theory, as to why they just can’t seem to get on board. Fortunately, his Vice President Kamala Harris has pushed drug reform as a prioritized platform of hers, but we have yet to see anything come of it now that they are in office.
Colorado has easily created a model that other states could follow if they have the ambition to garner similar results. My home state of New Jersey recently legalized recreational, but because lawmakers can’t really agree on how to proceed with sales and regulations, the details of the legislation are still a bit in limbo, which doesn’t make any sense at all. Enough states have legalized it and enough years have passed where studies and research can be conducted on the results of it, Colorado and California being perfect models of just that. So what is with the willful ignorance on behalf of our elected officials?
The facts are that people will use marijuana whether it’s legal or not, and legalizing it gives people a regulated industry that saves them from the unknown and sometimes scary nature of buying from a black market. And as stated time and time again, it brings in ungodly amounts of money that can be used in numerous ways to improve the lives of all citizens, including those that don’t indulge. The Colorado model has shown us with each passing year that it is a win-win model for everyone.
Unfortunately, the legalization battle rages on, and after years and years of misinformation and lies spread regarding marijuana, we are still having to fight clearly ignorant claims about why it’s not an issue worth fighting for. But studying and understanding the Colorado model can really help bolster any activists arguments.
So the next time you hear someone argue with you about some sort of social program or initiative that you believe can help better communities or combat social ills, and they drop the age old defense of “well, how are we going to pay for it??”, you can now reply with “I have an idea of how we can…”