Highlight on Colorado: Marijuana Revenue Use May Send Mixed Message in Colorado

As of September 2014, legalized marijuana sales in Colorado have accumulated to $7.2 million. With an approximate 30-percent sales tax on purchases and 340 pot shops in Denver alone, $40 million of Colorado pot sales is slotted to go to Colorado’s school system, but there is an argument brewing between marijuana proponents and watchdog groups, who say that they are not certain that there is proper oversight of the product or that revenue is being appropriately delegated. Watch groups wonder why kind of message is being sent about revenues funding children’s education amidst the drug’s negative health risks.

The Colorado Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) Coalition maintains that the product being sold in retail and medicinal stores is too powerful and commercialized, with some products made to look like regular edibles, such as cupcakes and candy, enhancing their appeal to unknowing children and teens. Likewise, SMART Colorado attests that kids under the legal age of 21 are able to get the edibles, and therefore, a black market still exists despite the drug’s legalization. A poll shows that only 60 percent of Coloradans purchased marijuana legally, because the regulated price and tax are very high (no pun intended).

There have also been reports that homeless shelters are almost at full capacity because homeless youth across the nation are flocking to Colorado to take advantage of the absence of legal consequences.

On the other side of the watchdogs is Taylor West of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), who argues that Coloradans should be thankful for marijuana legalization because the product is much safer now than before legalization.

According to SAM members, it makes no sense that federal and state government would downplay tobacco and alcohol use, touting their harmful effects, and yet some states like Colorado promote the use of marijuana.

Health facts on marijuana use include:

  • Increase in respiratory illness including daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections;
  • Increased heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking, which may lead to increased risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug;
  • Increase in risk for mental illness from long-term use; marijuana use has also been linked to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among adolescents; and
  • Marijuana use during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of neurobehavioral problems in babies.

In a November 2014 Gallup poll, voter support for legal marijuana waned by 12 percent since 2013. Yet, translated to the nation as a whole, 51 percent still support legal pot.

Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Alaska have legalized marijuana as of the November 2014 mid-term elections. Nevada is now considering following in Colorado’s footsteps, with over 200,000 signatures turned into the Clark County Elections Department in North Las Vegas on November 12, 2014, in support of legalizing the drug. The school system in Clark County, one of the largest in the nation, could certainly use the type of revenue generated in Colorado, but with the types of increased health risks resulting from pot’s use, the much needed funding may be best collected from some other avenue.