Two years after Colorado began its first retail sales of cannabis, towns and cities across the state are enjoying the benefits in a number of ways. With sales this year expected to reach $1 billion, local governments are seeingwindfalls of tax revenue, which is funding education, recreation, infrastructure improvements, and even aid to the homeless.
The small town of Mountain View may be able to dispel its reputation for collecting revenue through speeding tickets, now that two pot shops reside there.
“We have such a small tax base,” said Mayor Jeff Kiddie, who opposed pot stores. “Medical and retail marijuana have definitely helped the town’s bottom line. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.”
Similar stories abound in the 22 counties and 62 cities that allow retail cannabis sales.
In Aurora, which has collected millions in sales taxes and fees since October 2014, the City Council keeps the money in a separate fund so it can show the public exactly where cannabis revenue is spent. $1.5 million will be used to address the homeless issue, $2.8 million will go toward a recreation center, and $3.8 million will fund an Interstate 225 crossing.
Northglenn uses the money for capital projects and to purchase water rights. Adams County will spend $500,000 on scholarships for low-income students. Filling potholes and fixing roads is a common theme in other towns.
“There’s a lot of money left over to address safety issues that come up or really take on projects that these local communities do not necessarily have the funds to deal with,” said Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group. “For some communities, this tax revenue has made a huge difference.”
Denver collected $29 million last year through taxes and licensing fees; the capitol city prefers to spend this revenue on “ramped-up regulation, enforcement, public health and education efforts.”
While bureaucrats both honest and crooked are reveling in the flush of cash, more importantly, Colorado citizens are reveling in their newfound freedom. Judging by the immense market impact of retail sales, cannabis is a popular product.
Perhaps people are finding it a better and safer alternative than alcohol. There is evidence that people are giving up prescription painkillers in favor of medical cannabis.