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After Two Years Of Legal Pot, What Can Colorado Teach Nevada?


Brennan Linsley/AP

Visitors from Texas smell marijuana at the Breckenridge Cannabis Club.


Two years into the legalization of pot in Colorado, the results are startling to trickle in.

And generally, we know this: The state has seen the expected boost in tax revenue from sales, which topped $700 million the first year and $900 million in the second.

But during debate about legalization, we heard horror stories that this would lead to mass drug addiction, an increase in crime and the general degradation of society.

However, Richardo Baca, the marijuana editor for the Denver Post, said that is not what happened. But he does say most people, from doctors to law enforcement, would like more time to really understand the impact.

“Certainly, the sky hasn’t fallen but at the same time this is going to take them at least 10 years, that’s the general feeling 10 years to absorb the data, crunch the data and really see what this has meant for the local community,” he said.

While tax revenue numbers are impressive, most state leaders say it is really a drop in the bucket for them. In smaller and mid-sized cities like Pueblo, the marijuana tax revenue has been a big boost, allowing them to upgrade roads, parks and in Pueblo's case start a city scholarship fund for high school students.

Baca also said there was a drop in the number of people arrested for petty drug crimes, but that does not mean the courts are not still filled. 

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He also noted that while there are legal operations there are still people who are operating growing and selling operations on the black and gray markets. 

One area of concern before weed was legalized was whether more teens would use it. Baca said the numbers show there has not been a significant jump in the number of teens admitting they're using it in either Colorado or Washington State.

“That is good news for legalization advocates who had the theory that this wasn’t going to have an impact on teen usage in these states,” he said.

He also pointed out that advertising for marijuana companies is heavily restricted. 

Nevada is watching Colorado carefully. In November, voters will have the chance to legalize recreational use in the state. But we all want to know: Was it better in Colorado before or after pot?

"It is hard to say" Baca said. He said as a journalist is not advocating for either side, but some of the doomsday predictions have not come true.

“There hasn’t been a massive change I think a lot of people expected" he said, "You know the Nancy Graces of the world certainly expected rampant crime sprees”

Baca said it is a "very big deal that Nevada is considering" legalizing marijuana, especially if California voters reject the idea of legalized recreational pot.

If it's legal in Nevada, but still illegal in California, Baca thinks it could mean millions of dollars for the Silver State.

The Denver Post recently published a multi-part series on the effect of legalization two years in.


Ricardo Baca, marijuana editor, Denver Post

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