One Year Later: The Pros and Cons of Colorado’s Legal Recreational Cannabis Market

Published on January 14, 2015 · Last updated September 1, 2022

Some considered it a social experiment. Others say it’s a revolution. Whatever your stance, the entire world has watched as Colorado paved the way for legalization and forced the nation to seriously reconsider the current cannabis policies in effect. It’s been a little over a year since Colorado debuted the United States’ (and the world’s) first legal recreational cannabis market. Let’s examine how things are looking in the year since cannabis was recreationally legalized in Colorado.

The Pros of Colorado Recreational Cannabis Legalization

Crime is Down

Since Colorado implemented its legal recreational cannabis market, violent crime in the state has decreased by 2.2%, burglaries are down 9.5%, and overall property crimes decreased by 8.9%.

Taxes are Up

Revenue from retail cannabis sales amounted to at least $40.9 million by October 2014, with an allotted $2.5 million to increase the number of health professionals in Colorado public schools. In fact, Colorado is generating so much tax revenue from retail cannabis sales that another $30.5 million will be going straight back into the pocket of the Colorado taxpayers.

Arrests are Down

Marijuana-related arrests have dropped 84% since 2010, with legalization further deemphasizing low-level arrests for charges like simple possession. Each arrest costs the justice system approximately $300 to enforce and adjudicate, saving law enforcement upwards of $2 million in adjudication costs.

Traffic Fatalities are Down

In the first 11 months of 2014, there was a 3% drop in traffic fatalities, which marked a continued downward trend throughout 2014.

Employment is Up

Colorado’s unemployment rate has dropped, at least in part due to the 16,000 jobs that were created due to the marijuana industry.

The Cons of Colorado Recreational Cannabis Legalization

That’s the GREAT news. Now let’s examine Colorado more critically:

Contaminant Testing Hasn’t Happened Yet

Despite promises to the general public, Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division has yet to order the testing of cannabis for contaminants, such as mold, or for potency. Since Washington ordered mandatory lab testing, more than 13% of flower and cannabis products have failed contaminant testing, yielding some serious questions about Colorado’s untested products.

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Colorado Faces Lawsuits from Neighboring States

Talk about cranky neighbors: Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado under the premise that their border law enforcement officials have been overwhelmed by cannabis possession arrests, causing a strain on their justice system. Hmmm, you know a great way to lower marijuana arrests and costs to the justice system?

There are Limited Places for Legal Consumption

A rising issue with legalization is that recreational consumers, tourists in particular, have no place to legally consume the product they’re acquiring because it’s only legal to consume in a private residence. So far Colorado officials have issued 668 public cannabis consumption citations, a 471% increase compared to the same time last year. Perhaps more cannabis-friendly accommodations could be a solution?

Even when you weigh the pros and cons of Colorado’s historic legal recreational market, cannabis appears to easily come out on top. Thank you, Colorado, for proving that the world does not collapse when cannabis is legalized.

For more information on Colorado’s recreational cannabis market, including the location of retail marijuana shops, popular cannabis strains in Colorado, and information about Amendment 64, visit our Colorado information page.

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
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