Colorado and Washington made history ten years ago, on November 6, 2012, by becoming the first jurisdictions in the world to legalize the possession and sale of cannabis for adults, Washington with a measure called Initiative 502, and Colorado with a measure called Amendment 64.
Since then, the legalization of legal cannabis has spread to US states from coast to coast, and from Canada to Uruguay. With this week’s vote and legalization in Maryland and Missouri, cannabis is now legal in nearly half of the country.
10 years of legalization
Ten years ago, voters in Colorado and Washington were offered to vote to legalize adult cannabis use, with a relatively simple message.
In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol made the argument that cannabis is safer than alcohol. And in Washington State, the campaign New Approach explained that legalization was not a panacea, but that the advantages outweighed the disadvantages, and that the disadvantages of prohibition were far more harmful.
Both campaigns also promised to take money from illegal operators and put it back into state budgets, to take a product that people were already consuming and to regulate it while ending arrests of those consumers, and that consumption among young people and road accidents under the influence of cannabis would not increase.
The data suggests that, on the whole, this is what happened.
10 years of numbers
Legal sales began in both states in 2014. Washington State imposes a 37% excise tax, while Colorado imposes three taxes: the 2.9% state sales tax on retail sales, the 15% cannabis tax on retail sales and the 15% cannabis tax on wholesale sales, not including local taxes.
In 10 years, the State of Colorado has collected 2.27 billion dollars in taxes. The state now has around 670 stores and 1,200 producers and processors. The majority of taxes go into the “marijuana tax treasury fund,” with mandatory funding for schools. In 2020-2021, the Colorado Department of Education received $175 million in cannabis revenue and $619.9 million in 10 years.
The funds were allocated to various programs, including the prevention of bullying or dropping out of school or scholarships to promote school entry and reading.
By the end of 2021, Washington State had collected $2.37 billion in taxes, with more than half of that spent on health care. The state now has 484 cannabis stores and 1,300 growers and processors.
In both states, the taxes collected also fund the cannabis regulatory program.
Driving and teenagers
The final conclusion is yet to be determined. Current testing methods only identify that a person has consumed cannabis, but not when or how much.
Therefore, a person who has an accident and who has cannabis in his body may have consumed this cannabis several days before. Also, there is no national standard for driving under the influence of cannabis, as there is for alcohol. And there is no consensus, based on research, about exactly how cannabis affects drivers.
A study finds that road accidents have increased since legalization in Colorado but not in Washington State. Differences in how regulation was put in place, such as density of cannabis stores, out-of-state cannabis tourism, or local factors may explain the different results.
Regarding adolescent use, major youth surveys in each state show that past-month cannabis use among middle and high school students is trending down.
New political support
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee did not support the legalization campaign in 2012, when he was running for governor, but called for federal legalization when he ran for president. presidency in 2020.
And former Colorado Governor and current U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper, who opposed the legalization measure in 2012, said this at an anniversary event last month:
“There was concern that legalization would lead teenagers to think it wasn’t that bad, and that they would start consuming more and experimenting more. And one of the great things that Colorado has is a health survey, Healthy Kids Colorado – there are now more than 40,000 participants. But I regularly go to the United States Senate to say, “We can prove that since we legalized marijuana, there hasn’t been an increase in teenage experimentation. No increase in consumption. No increase in driving under the influence of drugs”.
Just this week, he announced that he would introduce the PREPARE Act (Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment). The ad featured Colorado as a success story, and its headline read, “Ten years after legalization in Colorado, Hickenlooper bill paves way for federal legalization of cannabis.”