In case you’ve been living under a rock, in 2014, Colorado became the first state in the US to legalise cannabis. And when we say ‘legalise’, we mean LEGALISE.
It’s not only now legal to possess up to one ounce (if you’re a resident), and gift one ounce to friends, but you can also buy it in licensed shops all over the state.
The big losers, obviously, are people who’ve been selling it illegally. No need for that anymore – in the first year of the new laws (2014) medical and recreational marijuana sales topped $700 million. There goes your black market.
And so who are the big winners? Well, apart from avid stoners and curious tourists (who can legally purchase one-quarter of an ounce at a time, to a maximum of an ounce a day), it’s the state government of Colorado, with cannabis sales bringing in a whopping $60 million in tax revenue and license fees for the first 10 months of 2015.
That’s up from $36.5 million for the previous period – a 63 per cent increase. It’s reportedly outstripped tax revenues for alcohol sales.
Former treasurer Joe Hockey (whose soon to reside in the US) take note – THAT’S how you fix a budget bottom line!
Current NSW Premier Mike Baird might also like to take note, after spending a big swag of taxpayer’s hard-earned on the now infamous ‘Stoner sloth’ commercials, first exposed by New Matilda’s Max Chalmers last year.
If you want to check the stats for yourself, go here. There’s something quite surreal about reading a government run website which lists revenue from weed.
Another interesting site to keep an eye on is the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which compiles state-wide data on crime.
Alas, the bureau doesn’t appear to keep (or at least publish) statistics on alcohol-related assaults (unlike the excellent NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research) but one interesting stat is Colorado’s homicide rate.
For the period coinciding with the introduction of the new cannabis laws, here’s what the bureau reports: “In 2014, a total of 150 homicides were reported by law enforcement agencies in Colorado. This is a 12.8 per cent decrease in homicides from 2013.”
On the other side of the coin, it may be legal to purchase and possess cannabis in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean you can walk the streets blazing a doobie.
Website Colorado Pot Guide notes, “In the first three quarters of 2014, Denver Police issued 668 public consumption citations. This amounts to a 470 per cent increase from the same period in 2013, when 117 citations were issued.”
Australian tourists heading to Colorado for the ‘ski-ing’ should also be aware that while the purchase and possession of cannabis is legal in Colorado, it’s not on federally owned land, which includes large swathes of the various ski resorts. You can still be jailed (for up to three years) for cannabis possession on federal land. The war on drugs isn’t quite over yet.