A Year After Legalizing Weed, Colorado Hasn’t Gone to Pot

Legalization hasn’t been the disaster opponents feared, but it also hasn’t kicked off a promised economic boom.


Long a stoner joke, the movement to legalize marijuana is now riding high. Voters have backed legal pot in four states and the District of Columbia. Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada are expected to vote on legalization in 2016.

For a glimpse at what happens after pot prohibitions are lifted, consider Colorado, which opened the door to recreational pot sales last January. (It legalized medical pot in 2000.) Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper called the move, approved by voters in 2012, “reckless.” One sheriff warned that it would bring “more crime, more kids using marijuana, and pot for sale everywhere.” Proponents, meanwhile, said a regulated market would let cops focus on serious crime while bringing in a “ton of tax revenue.” Let’s look at the numbers.

pot stats

Sources

Estimated pot sales: “Market Size and Demand for Marijuana in Colorado,” the Marijuana Policy Group for the Colorado Department of Revenue

Revenues and taxes: “Market Size and Demand for Marijuana in Colorado”; Colorado Department of Revenue; Washington Post

Out-of-state visitors: “Market Size and Demand for Marijuana in Colorado”

Market predictions: Denver Post; State of Colorado (1, 2)

Medical marijuana: Colorado Department of Revenue

Total demand: “Market Size and Demand for Marijuana in Colorado”

Pot real estate: Denver Post; Ladybud

Pot users: “Market Size and Demand for Marijuana in Colorado”

Spot checks: Colorado Department of Revenue

Crime rates: Data from Denver Department of Safety

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.