Colorado Marijuana Five Years In

Big Red Car here with some interesting facts on marijuana — legal in Colorado. Colorado now has five years of experience with the legalization and commercialization of marijuana.

Colorado did not just “de-criminalize” the possession of marijuana; it provided an opportunity for the commercialization of marijuana in the form of growers, distributors, and retailers.

There is a difference between de-criminalizing and commercialization, but what do the results tell us five year in?

Colorado Marijuana? Results, Big Red Car?

Colorado has five years of experience with commercial marijuana. During that period of time, the number of legal cultivators has grown to almost 700.

In January 2014, there were 192 legal cultivators while today there are 690. The price of a pound of marijuana bud has decreased from a high of $2,007 in January of 2015 to an all time low of $1,298 in July 2017. This is a 35% decrease and the trend continues and is expected to continue as more cultivators open for business and cultivation efficiencies are realized.

This implies an price of $82 per ounce, the legal limit a person can possess in Colorado. The per ounce price is typically higher and it is taxed to the tune of about 15% (effective as of August 2017, a slight increase). The tax is applied to both wholesale and retail prices, so it is, effectively, taxed twice. [There is a Vendor’s Fee of 3.33% which is applied at the time of tax filing.]

The results

Colorado has generated almost $250,000,000 in tax revenue in 2017 on sales of $1,507,702,219. Colorado marijuana is a billion dollar business!

Half of that tax revenue goes to schools – construction, substance abuse counseling, treatment. A quarter of it must be used for substance abuse counseling and treatment.

Colorado has identified “marijuana tourism” as a identifiable impact though it is impossible to quantify.

Drivers testing positive for marijuana in fatal crashes has doubled.

Homelessness rates have also doubled giving Colorado one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. Anecdotally, managers of shelters report many homeless folks are drawn to the legally available marijuana.

High schools have been hit hard:

 1. High schools report a 71% increase in drug violations amongst students during school hours.

This has happened in an environment in which all other violations have markedly decreased.

 2. Suspensions for drugs have increased by 45%.

 3. Colorado ranks first, by a wide margin, in the country for the rate of marijuana use amongst teenagers.

It is important to note that the age at which a person can possess marijuana in Colorado is twenty-one, so all high school students are using marijuana illegally.

Colorado Marijuana Discussion

In discussing the five year anniversary of the commercialization of marijuana in Colorado, folks say the following:

 1. The additional revenue is welcome, but a significant chunk of the additional revenue is being consumed in administration and in dealing with the negative impact of marijuana on kids.

The state budget is approximately $27,000,000,000 with additional Federal funds driving that to almost $40,000,000,000 — the additional marijuana tax revenue is insignificant while the problems are significant.

The marijuana revenue — $250Million of $40Billion — has not driven any policy issues based on new fund availability.

 2. The legalization and commercialization of marijuana is a different kettle of fish than the simple de-criminalization. The additional availability has driven marijuana into high schools and into the pockets of teenagers. The results show this clearly.

 3. Neighboring states, wherein marijuana is not legal, complain of marijuana smuggling. Some have sued the State of Colorado.

Let’s be clear. The Big Red Car does not have a dog in this fight. I fully expect marijuana to be legalized in the entire country within the next 10 years, if not sooner. I am simply calling balls and strikes.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car, y’all. I do not smoke weed though some weed has been smoked in my seats. 



21 thoughts on “Colorado Marijuana Five Years In

  1. This is a controversial topic where philosophy often trumps facts. It’s important to know the source of the data because while you may not have dog in this fight, many do. For instance I’m sure that SAM is going to come up with different facts than the National Cannabis Industry Association.

    A good source of information is the reports published by the Colorado Retail Public Health Advisory Committee. It contrasts your data:

    High schools have been hit hard:
    1. High schools report a 71% increase in drug violations amongst students during school hours. This has happened in an environment in which all other violations have markedly decreased.
    2. Suspensions for drugs have increased by 45%.
    3. Colorado ranks first, by a wide margin, in the country for the rate of marijuana use amongst teenagers.

    The advisory committee finds:
    1. Past-month marijuana use among adults and adolescents has not changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the frequency of use.
    2. Based on the most comprehensive data available, past-month marijuana use among Colorado adolescents is nearly identical to the national average.

    The most recent report can be found here:
    Certainly a lot of cautionary data in this report but highly factual.

    The biggest concerns at the Governor’s office (related to marijuana) include
    – black and gray market, sometimes sourced from home grows
    – diversion to other states, gray market and looping (purchases over daily limit)
    – law enforcement, laws are complex and fluid making enforcement difficult

    Disclosure: employed in cannabis mandated testing industry, non-user, close to legislative and public policy in CO, father of 21 & 23 yo kids so well acquainted with problems and shifts in drug challenges.

    • .
      As I indicated, I have no dog in this fight and do not really care what the conclusions are. I found the information interesting and alarming.

      It defies credulity when I read something like: “Past-month marijuana use among adults and adolescents has has not changed either in terms of the number of people or the frequency of use.”

      Not sure what “past-month marijuana use” as a qualifier means or why it is important, but the notion that the legalization of recreational marijuana has not increased in terms of the number of people or the frequency of use seems obviously areithmetically nonsensical when one considers that the gross revenue from sales are as follows:

      2014 – $683,523,739
      2015 – $995,591,255
      2016 – $1,307,203,473
      2017 – $1,507,702,219

      Surely that sales trend indicates that the number of users of recreational marijuana has increased since the legalization of recreational marijuana, no? If sales increase by 2.5X doesn’t that have to indicate more users or more use per existing user? How else could it increase?

      Anecdotally, I can tell you that I see it with my own eyes when I am in Steamboat.

      The attached graph seems to indicate that Colorado use exceeds national use. Is there a way to see it otherwise?

      The discussion about marijuana and, in particular, in Colorado is one of the most intellectually dishonest discussions I have ever witnessed.

      Again, I am not a zealot on the subject, but I do have a genuine respect for the truth.


  2. Some proponents attribute the drop in Colorado prescription drug overdose rates in 2016 to the availability of THC.(6%)even going so far as to promote as a treatment for Opioid addiction
    Same that tout it as an evidence based therapy for pain( small study’s with no controls)
    What is interesting is the rise in heroin overdose rates . (23%)Likely due to reduced Opioid dosings from prescribers.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. In Colorado, there has also been:

    – 155% increase in workplace industrial accidents
    – 185% increase in workplace injuries (non-industrial)
    – 100% increase in pediatric hospitalizations due directly to accidental ingestion
    – 178% increase in positive drug tests in the workplace

    The data you cite about adolescent use of marijuana is due to what is referred to as normalization. As marijuana becomes viewed in culture as normal, youth believes that that it is safe. Because our mass media has also touted benefits — which have been mostly qualitative; without any long-term studies ever having been funded in the U.S. — it has played a dangerous role in normalization. Parents and adults who think that marijuana is safe also become role models spreading the word that marijuana is safe.

    Similar data is also coming to light in Washington State.

    You can read more comprehensive data here:

    SAM – Smart Approaches to Marijuana –



      • Yes. Because the concentration is so high, it is particularly scary when a child accidentally ingests it as well. There are so many edibles that look just like candy — how are children to even know?

    • Thank you for the post, Susan. You provided a better, more cogent analysis than I could. I have been dealing with this issue for many years. First, as a teen I watched several of my friends get into drugs, particularly marijuana. Their personalities changed considerably. Once on track to be successful and contributing members of society, they lost that motivation. Many went from job to job and marriage to marriage with the resulting fallout. Almost none have become what you would call successful adults.

      After college, I became a federal narcotics agent and again witnessed the devastation of drugs. Marijuana was no exception as a cause of such damage. Currently, I am a criminal defense attorney. The smart drug dealers do not indulge in their product themselves. Dealing is a business decision for them. It is difficult to get caught and the profits are enormous. The legalization crowd apparently wants to replace them with corporate dealers. However, the lower you go on the drug dealer hierarchy, the more use and the sadder cases one encounters. Legalization won’t change that.

      I am a supporter of SAM. The evidence against legalization far outweighs that of legalization. Decriminalization of small amounts is another story. Practically speaking, virtually no law enforcement officer in any jurisdiction prosecutes a case solely bases on possession of quantities intended for personal use. That is just another lie perpetrated by legalization proponents.

      • Your post sounds good.

        When I was in grad school, there was a couple, both profs, one of them one of my profs, who had a daughter, pretty, brilliant, accomplished, 17, on her way on Amtrak or some such to start her freshman year at Princeton. She never got there. She was killed in a train wreck. IIRC, the claim was that one of the operators of the train was on marijuana. Bummer.

        > I am a supporter of SAM.

        What is that? Sorry to ask, but I have a thingy about undefined acronyms.

    • Susan, could you state those stats in hard numbers rather than percentages so those of us interested can judge true impact? (The problem with percentages: If the are two incidents of cats climbing trees and suddenly there are four that’s a 100% increase, but it’s still four incidents of cats climbing trees).

      Hard numbers would tell the true story better. Thanks.

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