When the people of Colorado voted to legalize the retail sale of marijuana in their state, hopes were high (pun intended) that the theories of added revenues and lower crime rates would prove sound and make all the controversy worthwhile.
The official numbers are in, and the people of Colorado are even better off than they expected.
According to a study by the Drug Policy Alliance, Colorado made the right choice.
Colorado tax revenues break $40 million.
That number comes from retail marijuana sales only and doesn’t include the sale of medical marijuana or the licensing fees collected by the state from legal dispensaries.
Colorado’s state Revenue Commission has already allocated $2.5 million of that money to hiring new health care professionals and educating children about the dangers of drug use. The increase in funding fills a critical gap left by budget cuts in 2011.
Colorado’s first big winner is public education.
Crime rates across the board decrease.
In Denver alone, the decrease in crime is impressive to say the least. According to data released by the city, violent crime is down 2.2%, burglaries decreased by 9.5%, and overall property crime is down 8.9%.
Arrests and judicial savings are massive.
The Colorado Court System reports that arrests for possession of marijuana have decreased by 84% since 2010, and arrests for cultivation have decreased by 90%.
At a cost of $300 per case to adjudicate plus the burden on police departments, the Drug Policy Alliance suggests that the state is saving millions of dollars, and that doesn’t include the likelihood of prison time for second-time and higher non-violent offenders who would otherwise probably never see the inside of a courtroom, never mind a jail cell.
Traffic fatalities have decreased.
Yes, you read that right. Traffic fatalities in Colorado have gone down. While there is most likely no correlation between legalized marijuana and people driving safer, the fact that fatalities have decreased by 3% debunks the theory that stoners behind the wheel would make Colorado roads more dangerous.
Nope. At ease, Colorado. Keep sending a designated driver out or walking to the corner store when you get the munchies and all is well.
Jobs and other economic benefits are undeniable.
The average employee in the state’s two largest marijuana dispensaries earns $17 per hour, and the dispensaries themselves contribute 10 times the tax revenue of a typical restaurant or retail store.
Youth prevention is a priority, and it is working.
$8 million have been allocated to youth prevention and education. Another $2.5 million was spent closing funding gaps and increasing health care workers in schools. $2 million is being spent on community based mentoring projects focused on prevention and school retention, and yet another $4.3 million will be spent on outreach for students using marijuana.
Colorado has proven to the rest of America that marijuana doesn’t have to be forever on the list of evil in America. More and more scientists are discrediting the “gateway drug” theory. With virtually no deaths attributed to weed, no chance of physical addiction and the added medical benefits being explored, it’s time to hang up the 1950’s stigma of marijuana and look to the future.
Thanks, Colorado, for giving us the ability to see so clearly.