By Dave Delozier | February 9, 2015
DENVER -Fourteen months after Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize the growing and selling of recreational and medical marijuana, the debate continues on whether it is successful.
“Colorado really demonstrated to the rest of the country and the rest of the world that you can regulate marijuana, and it works,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Proponents of the legalization of recreational marijuana point to the control it gives the government over how marijuana is grown, who grows it and how it is sold.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana sales are taking place in licensed businesses instead of the underground market, and it generates tens of millions of dollars in revenues for the state and the localities in new revenue, and it is creating thousands of new jobs,” Tvert said.
The state of Colorado has established a regulatory agency that oversees the growing and selling of marijuana. Every marijuana plant is tracked from seed to sale.
“We hope to grow 7,000 pounds of marijuana this year, and we’ll probably sell all of it,” said Sally Vander Veer, controller for Medicine Man, a grower and seller of marijuana in Colorado. “We’ve broken sales figures from January all the way through December. In fact, in December, we had our first million dollar month.”
With grow operations and dispensaries opening throughout the state, sales in 2014 reached into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“About $700 million in the market, which by the way generated about $60 to $70 million in taxes for the state, $40 million of which went to education,” said Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer for Dixie Elixir.
Colorado voters targeted a marijuana excise tax to help fund the construction of new schools in the state. The marijuana excise tax is managed by the Building Excellent Schools Today grant program. The grant program is funded by four sources, the State Land Trust, Colorado Lottery Spillover funds, Marijuana Excise Tax and interest.
Currently, of the $385 million in the grant program, Marijuana Excise Tax funds represent less than one percent.
“We haven’t seen a dime, at least not directly that I’m aware of,” said Michael Lynch, director of secondary schools for the Adams 50 School District.