Colorado has received more than $500 million in marijuana-related revenue since recreational cannabis sales began in 2014, according to a new report.
Compiled by the Denver-based marijuana policy firm VS Strategies, the report looked at state data, which was released on Wednesday.
Pro-marijuana advocates are expected to hold a news conference at noon on Wednesday, where they will point to the value of marijuana tax revenue in Colorado.
Among those who will attend the news conference is Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who has taken a lead role on cannabis policy in Colorado. Singer has a background in youth counseling, and has advocated for cannabis revenue to be used for counseling services.
Also expected to attend the news conference is Lauren Arnold, executive director of the Aurora-based Adoption Exchange, which was recently awarded funding from the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program, which has been allocated more than $3 million in marijuana tax revenue.
Colorado has recently begun to expand its use of marijuana tax revenue, with an initiative led by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who opposed marijuana legalization, but who has cautiously acknowledged that the “experiment” appears to be working in Colorado.
Hickenlooper’s office made marijuana money for homeless and housing a priority. The money was at first not included in the annual $26.8 billion state budget, but lawmakers later amended it. The original proposal called for $16.3 million for housing and homeless services, but budget writers lowered that to $15.3 million.
At the news conference planned for Wednesday afternoon, marijuana advocates will present Singer with a jumbo check for a half-billion dollars.
“Legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adult use has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for Colorado,” said Mason Tvert, who co-directed the successful 2012 campaign to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use. “Marijuana tax money has been used to improve a wide range of programs and services.
“It is funding everything from school construction to substance abuse treatment to fighting homelessness. While it might not fix every school or help every person who needs it, it is having a significant and positive impact on our community.
“We hope lawmakers will continue to distribute these funds responsibly and not lose sight of what voters intended when they opted to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.”
In response to the study, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, a national anti-marijuana legalization group, said the cannabis industry is trying to protect its own self interests.
“Like the tobacco industry before it, the Colorado marijuana lobby is touting marijuana as the panacea for every contemporary challenge Colorado faces,” said Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “The truth is, the health and safety costs caused by the commercialization of marijuana far outweigh any revenues collected.”
Sabet went on to point out that Colorado’s budget needs are far greater than marijuana tax revenue can provide, despite the fact that marijuana taxes helped to close a budget hole this year as lawmakers struggled to pass a balanced budget. He also suggested that legal marijuana created loopholes that allow for an underground market to still exist.
“It’s time for the marijuana industry to face the truth – they lied to voters and have failed to live up to their promises,” Sabet said. “Waving around an oversized novelty check makes pot lobbyists feel good, but it does not help the families and communities who have to deal with the costs of marijuana commercialization.”