It’s been exactly six months since legal retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, and today is the first day that retail marijuana business licenses are open to all applicants — not just those who previously held medical marijuana licenses.
In these brief six months, the Centennial State has already experienced overwhelmingly positive results! There has been a 10.1% decrease in overall crime from 2013. As of May, the state had collected $10.9 million in taxes from adult use stores alone. The Department of Revenue has licensed nearly 600 retail marijuana businesses — including dispensaries, cultivators, and infused products manufacturers — and 10,043 individuals to work in the industry.
On November 5, Colorado passed Prop AA, a measure that outlines the specific taxes to be imposed on the sale of recreational marijuana. The measure works in conjunction with Amendment 64, the ballot measure passed last year that taxes and regulates marijuana for adult use. Prop AA is an important step to establish taxes to fund the regulation of the marijuana industry. Although Colorado has ended their prohibition of marijuana, it is still illegal under federal law. The DOJ announced in July that it will not interfere in Colorado’s implementation of a regulated marijuana industry, but only if it adheres to the regulations set out in Amendment 64 with a fully-funded regulatory body, among other criteria.
In order to pay for regulation and oversight, Prop AA establishes a 15% excise tax imposed on the sale of marijuana from a cultivation facility and a 10% sales tax imposed when a consumer purchases marijuana from a retail store. This tax revenue will allow the state to monitor marijuana sales and implement the regulations set out in Amendment 64. The revenue will also go toward the Building Excellent Schools Today program, which will improve infrastructure, technology, and construction of new facilities for Colorado Public Schools.
Last week, the political blustering of federal lawmakers once again resulted in a law that unfairly targets marijuana users without any proof of effectiveness. On Friday, Congress reached a payroll and benefits deal that allows states to drug test any person applying for unemployment benefits if that person is looking for work in a field where drug testing is commonplace.
Florida’s experience with drug testing people applying for public benefits should have been a wake-up call for lawmakers. After passing a bill requiring unemployment beneficiaries to submit drug tests, Florida authorities soon discovered that not only was drug use extremely rare among those applying for assistance, but drug testing was actually costing the taxpayers more money! The whole point of the law was to decrease costs, so that tough-on-crime politicians could grandstand about how tax dollars in their districts aren’t buying drugs for lazy people.
Congress really needs to stop wasting its time worrying about the tiny percentage of people on public assistance that are marijuana users and instead consider all the taxpayer money they are wasting by arresting people for marijuana use at all.
Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has stated on many occasions that his vocabulary does not include the word “legalization.” Now today, we learn that our nation’s top drug warrior doesn’t know the meaning of the word “prohibition” either.
Sadly, I’m not making this up.
In an online video interview today with the Washington Post, Kerlikowske says the Obama administration is “very much opposed” to taxing and regulating marijuana because—get this—he says the taxes paid on alcohol do not make up for the “criminal justice, health care, [and] social costs” of alcohol consumption. Oh, and he just assumes taxes on marijuana wouldn’t either, though he doesn’t bother to mention the billions of dollars we could save on law enforcement, prison, judicial and environmental costs by calling for an end to the futile and unwinnable war the government wages against our country’s largest cash crop and the millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans who use it.
This bizarre answer prompts Post editor Fred Hiatt, the interviewer, to ask an obvious question: “So … are you looking at the prohibition of alcohol?”