The National Governors Association is having its winter meeting in Washington, D.C., from February 21-24, and apparently one of the topics being bandied about is the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Specifically, the governors are interested in finding out how their colleague from Colorado feels things are going since that state legalized marijuana for recreational use on the first of this year.
Democrat John Hickenlooper fielded questions from “half a dozen” governors who felt that the situation was a wave headed for their states next. Hickenlooper cautioned other governors against following his lead, pointing out that the facts about legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes were not in yet: “We don’t know what the unintended consequences are going to be.” He went so far as to say that “if it was me, I’d wait a couple of years.”
Meanwhile, people are flocking to Colorado from all over the United States specifically because recreational marijuana has been legalized there. The number of companies and even industries that have been created since the passing of Colorado’s Amendment 64 passed, which is now enacted as Article 18, Section 16, of the Colorado Constitution, has prompted the economies that have sprung up around the legal marijuana trade to be lumped together under the moniker “The Green Rush.” One example of such a company is Colorado Cannabis Tours, which offers limousine junkets that revolve around the state’s various cannabis offerings. One of the company’s customers said that all 11 people in her tour group were from out of state. Company founder Michael Eymer said that he is getting business that people used to give to places like Amsterdam: “People are canceling those trips, and not only is that money coming to Colorado, that money is staying in the United States.” Another entrepreneur of The Green Rush, dispensary owner Peter Williams, says he expects to do $10 million in sales and that he will be taxed on 36.22 percent of it. It can be presumed that the huge potential for state income is one reason the topic of legalizing marijuana for recreational use was so interesting to the other attendees of the National Governors Association winter meeting.
Governor Hickenlooper released a budget proposal on Wednesday, February 19th, that gives the first official estimate of the amount of income that Colorado should expect to make from marijuana taxes. The proposal shows that estimates on the legal marijuana market were much lower than the actual numbers. The next fiscal year’s sales and excise taxes are expected to produce $98 million, which is $28 million more than the number given to the state’s voters last year. Also, the marijuana tax plan did not include an additional excise tax of 15 percent, $40 million of which has already been set aside for school construction. According to Hickenlooper’s projections, the full $40 million will likely be reached next year.
Only slightly behind Colorado, Washington State has also legalized recreational marijuana. By late spring or early summer, it is estimated that licensed retail stores selling recreational marijuana will be opened to the public. The governor of Washington State was also queried at the National Governors meeting. The advice he gave to his fellow governors differed slightly from Hickenlooper’s. He encouraged them to follow the will of their state, noting that it was Washington State’s will to decriminalize marijuana. “So far,” said Inslee, “it’s working well.”
By Donna Westlund