Colorado’s tax revenue from marijuana sales now exceeds $1 billion a year. The one billion dollar threshold was reached five years into the state’s marijuana business.
It was also a period when Colorado led the fledgling industry, but now that torch is being passed to more important states and maybe a nation like Canada.
Since the first legal sales of recreational marijuana got underway in the Centennial State 2014, public curiosity about what’s going on here has been high.
This year, Colorado’s medical and recreational regulations were up against Sept. 1 “sunset” deadlines, which required the Legislature to spend a lot of time on the cannabis issues.
Lawmakers met their deadlines, making hundreds of changes for the state’s 2,987 licensed medical and recreational marijuana businesses that together employ 41,798, who must have “active occupational licenses.”
Colorado lawmakers also approved a phase-in for home delivery of cannabis products and permitted sales, with local approval, of “hospitality spaces” for those who want to indulge with others.
Tax revenue from marijuana totals $1.02 billion, which translates into sales of more than $6.5 billion. A dime of every dollar from pot sales is available to local governments where it is possible to obtain a retail cannabis license.
Colorado’s legislative fixes do not appear to have addressed the Achilles Heel left from 2012 initiative that made recreational sales possible. It vests regulatory authority in the Department of Revenue and its Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED).
Initiative writers pulled a fast one by leaving the respected Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on the sidelines. The other 10 ten states where recreational cannabis sales are or are about to legal are not making the Colorado mistake.
With far more populous jurisdictions joining the party, Colorado has probably already overstayed its welcome as a marijuana trendsetter. In the last year, recreational marijuana sales became legal in California (with a population of 40 million) and Canada (with 37 million).
From here on out, the larger jurisdictions will set the trend, not Colorado with less than six million residents. And that might be good because it might mean more realistic observations from both industry and government without wearing the rose-colored glasses that are so popular in Denver.
For example, it appears that both industries players and government regulators see the “track-and-trace” rollout in California as pretty much a failure. It’s left the illicit marijuana business alive on the field.
Evidence exists that Colorado has the same problem. On May 24, U.S. District Attorney for Colorado Jason Dunn announced the most massive marijuana bust in state history.
It involved 250 locations across eight counties, where illegal weed was being grown and harvested. “To be clear, these (growing areas) are not ones that were otherwise legal under state law,” Dunn said. These are pure black market.”
To my knowledge, no Colorado politician has mentioned it or what the illegal grow operations mean for the legal. Lori Ajax, who heads the California Bureau of Canibus Control, recently told the legal marijuana industry that she’s like to “crush the illegal market.”
At the same event, Gov. Garvin Newsome’s cannabis business czar Nicole Elliott said the new California Governor wants to eliminate illegal pot in California in the next five to seven years. He ‘s promised California National Guard members will be pulled from duty on the Mexican border to combat illegal grow operations in northern California.
Colorado politicians don’t talk much about whether the No. 1 assumption about legal marijuana is going to come to pass. Is illegal weed going to fade away or simply continue in its space alongside the legal?
California does seem to be more able to take that one on.
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