How Colorado Pioneered Recreational Cannabis in the U.S.

By 2017, more than half of the U.S. states have already passed their own laws regulating either recreational or medicinal use, or both. More states are also considering putting the matter of legalization to vote. Among all the states that have passed their own policies, Colorado set a precedent for other jurisdictions through a landmark measure passed in 2012. Below are several reasons how Colorado Amendment 64 changed the legal cannabis landscape.

First State to Legalize Recreational Use

Colorado became the first state to legalize adult recreational use through Amendment or Proposition 64. The Colorado law also taxed and regulated cannabis the same way as alcohol. After Colorado’s move, Washington followed by passing their own legalization statute for recreational use. Both laws allow a person 21-years of age or older to consume or possess a limited amount of cannabis. Amendment 64 was passed through a statewide referendum despite federal regulations still banning cannabis use. While the voters expressed support for the lifting of the cannabis prohibition, some sectors predicted implementation hurdles for both states.

Created a Recreational Cannabis Industry

The groundbreaking law also paved the way for the growth of the recreational cannabis industry in Colorado and other states. Amendment 64 contained provisions permitting the licensing of different types of cannabis businesses, which created entrepreneurial opportunities. The statute allowed qualified individuals to apply for cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and retail licenses. The government, in turn, were given the regulatory reins for the industry to ensure Colorado’s recreational cannabis businesses are compliant with the law.

Started A New Revenue Stream for Colorado

As the pioneer of recreational cannabis, the state saw the economic impact soon after full implementation. When the proposition passed in 2012 industry pundits had forecasted that the opening of new dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses would create a market for new consumers. In turn, consumer purchases would generate tax revenues for the Colorado state government.

Since 2014, licensed Colorado cannabis businesses have already pulled in more than half a billion in retail sales and licensing fees. A majority of the income was produced by the recreational cannabis sector. Year to year comparison saw revenues growing on an annual basis. As an example, revenues reached $200 million last year, compared to the $74 million the industry earned in fiscal 2014.

Supported Public Services and Programs

Amendment 64 also supported essential public services. The law required that the first $40 million raised annually from Colorado recreational cannabis excise taxes be allotted for public school capital improvements. Soon after, cannabis revenues have also been appropriated to support drug prevention and treatment initiatives.

Colorado’s state cannabis laws spurred the legal changes now seen in many states. As the pioneer in the nationwide cannabis legalization battle, Colorado’s laws became a model, a legal precedent for other states to follow. Today, more than half of the U.S. states have passed their own laws supporting regulated cannabis use. As a mature market, Colorado’s experience also became a business blueprint for other state cannabis industries to observe and follow.