Before going into effect on January 1, legal marijuana in Colorado carried high expectations of bringing in massive tax revenue for the state. The actual benefits have been more than what financial forecasters have expected, and certain responsibilities have now been placed on the state of Colorado in light of marijuana legalization.
Because legal marijuana has exceeded presumed tax estimates, the governor of colorado has proposed increased funding for drug prevention programs. Gov. John Hickenlooper release a budget proposal yesterday that will allot $99 million for drug use programs for the state, among other programs for the next fiscal year. Colorado marijuana sales are expected to break above $610 million the next fiscal year.
The proposal would place a 12.9 percent sales tax on the sale of recreational legal marijuana. The current rate of sales with the 12.9 percent tax will allow legal marijuana to surpass the originally predicted amount of $70 million in excise taxes.
The programs in Hickenlooper’s plan include $45.5 million for youth use prevention, $40.4 million for general substance abuse treatment, and $12.4 million directed towards public health.
Hickenlooper proposed a three-year-long media campaign about marijuana that some say will highlight possible health risks of marijuana to raise public awareness. Also, the Colorado Department of Transportation will receive $1.9 million to fund a “Drive High, Get a DUI” campaign to protect consumers and non-consumers of marijuana on Colorado’s roads. The governor also wants to use $7 million to create room for 105 more people in residential substance abuse treatment centers.
“Voters and state lawmakers around the country are watching how this system unfolds in Colorado, and the prospect of generating significant revenue while eliminating the underground marijuana market is increasingly appealing,” said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project.
The entire country is indeed watching Colorado is still in the midst of excitement created by the legal pot laws. The passage and implementation of the law was a huge cause for celebration in the state, as well as for Washington. But being the first, these states now have the responsibility of setting the example for the rest of the country on how to successfully and safely regulate the use of legal marijuana.
If Colorado were to completely botch the implementation of legal marijuana laws and dropped the ball on proper enforcement and public awareness, other states would be very reluctant to follow suit in legalizing marijuana. But with the proposals put forth by Gov. Hickenlooper, Colorado is on the right track to setting the proper example for other states and the federal government to begin legalizing marijuana.