Five months ago, Colorado made history by being the first state in the US to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Opponents were worried that this decision would cause an increase in crime rates, but as sales of marijuana have been increasing, instances of crime have actually gone down in the state. Some local businesses, such as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO), have even begun to incorporate the drug into advertising as a means of increasing revenue.
Sales of recreational marijuana in the state reached almost $19 million for the month of March, almost a $5 million increase from February. The first three months of recreational sales have earned roughly $7.3 million in taxes for Colorado, with taxes from medicinal weed bringing the total up to $12.6 million. Another way that this legislation is generating taxes for the state is through fees and licensing of growers and sellers, which have earned an additional $903,000 for the first three months. The fact that sales are steadily increasing indicates that the financial benefit of legalized marijuana could be a lasting one. However, lawmakers are still unsure of this, and are choosing to only plan their spending with the money that has already been earned.
Compared to the January-April period from 2013, 2014 has seen an overall reduction in both violent and property crimes since legalizing marijuana. This strikes down the statements made by opponents of the bill that legalization of the drug would lead to an increase in crime in the state. Notable reductions were seen in homicide (down by over 52%) and theft from motor vehicles (down by 36%), and all forms of violent crime saw a reduction in their incidence over this period.
As Colorado sales of marijuana are heading up and crime is heading down, another boost that the state is receiving is through job growth. There are at least 13 different jobs that have been created by the industry, ranging from marijuana journalists to grow site operators. The increasing demand for employment can also act as a boost for students, who are taking advantage of the booming industry to help cover tuition costs, according to a study published by Humboldt University. With the cannabis business projected to keep growing, the need for jobs within the industry will continue to expand as well.
The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is one group who has taken advantage of the legalization of cannabis to promote their work. The group has four shows planned for this year that will mix the musical experience with marijuana, in the attempts to draw in a younger audience and expand the appreciation of classical music. Edible Events, one of several cannabis-based event companies in the area, is organizing these events. The company provides services for private and public events involving marijuana, and also gives tours of local dispensaries and growing sites. The hope of the CSO, as well as music venues and other musical groups, is to entice a more diverse crowd to come out and experience traditional arts, such as ballet and theater. With attendance at these types of events dropping, and reaching a primarily aging audience, performs within these art styles believe that incorporating marijuana into the events could aid in making the art form popular again.
Colorado has experienced many benefits to the legalization of marijuana, which include seeing sales numbers go up and crime rates go down. In addition to these, the new market for jobs and a new marketing angle for the arts prove to be potential boosts to the economy of the state.
By Joseph Chisarick