Colorado’s legal marijuana industry has made good on its promises to improve the state’s economy and bring about positive change through sales taxes collected on medicinal and recreational cannabis. In just two years, legal cannabis has become a $1 billion industry in the western state, creating jobs, boosting tourism and decreasing the high costs of policing and incarceration. But it’s the smart ways in which Colorado is spending its pot tax windfall that is attracting the attention of states that are facing budget shortfalls.
Colorado has allocated $40 million to new school construction, updating old, unsafe and overcrowded buildings with new, state-of-the-art learning facilities. It has dedicated millions more to drop-out prevention programs, youth mentoring services, poison control centers, substance abuse programs and Future Farmers of America and 4H.
In Aurora, Colorado, council members agreed to spend part of its anticipated $4.5 million in pot taxes to alleviate the problem of homelessness. The city council allocated $1.5 million to be spent over two years, in addition to another $1.5 million already dedicated to homeless services. The new funding will help the nonprofit Colfax Community Network assist low-income families who are homeless or living in transient hotels. Additional funds were dedicated to specific needs, such as the purchase of two new vans for outreach services. The council discussed the possibility of ultimately building a day center facility where homeless individuals could wash their clothes, take a shower and receive mental health services.
Aurora is also using cannabis tax money to build a new recreation center and fund other
area nonprofits. “We wanted to be able to show citizens that we are having a positive impact on the community and point to specific projects or initiatives to where that money is going to,” said Bob Roth, Aurora city councilman.
Bob Roth. (Credit: Source.)
In 2015, Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes and license fees related to legal cannabis sales — an increase of nearly 78 percent from the $76 million in taxes and fees collected the previous year. Cannabis sales in the state rose by 42 percent after the first year of legalization.
“The additional tax revenue far exceeds the cost of regulating the system,” Mason Tvert, a spokesman for industry advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “Regulating and taxing marijuana has been incredibly successful in Colorado, and it represents a model for other states to follow.”