Rocky Mountain High: Colo. Has a Billion-Dollar Pot Industry

Early returns show grass is bringing in more green than legislators expected.

A bag of marijuana being prepared for sale sits next to a money jar at BotanaCare in Northglenn, Colo. (Photo: Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Feb 23, 2014· 0 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

Gazing into the crystal bong, Colorado's future is looking pretty flush with cash, thanks to tax and fee revenues from pot legalization.

State legislators are reporting they expect legal recreational pot sales to fill the state's tax coffers with more than $118 million in the first full fiscal year since legalization, starting in July. Include medical marijuana taxes, and the number goes up to $134 million. Overall, the industry is said to be worth nearly a billion dollars in sales in its first year.

Pot became legal in the state on Jan. 1, spurring a boom in drug tourism and weed-related businesses, such as edible pot food manufacturers and marijuana shops. Between the start of the industry's legalization and July, pot shops are expected to bring in $35 million in taxes alone.

The numbers aside, Gov. John Hickenlooper told his colleagues at the National Governors Association on Friday that his state's adoption of legal pot will be one of the "great social experiments of the 21st century."

"But going out and getting tax revenue is absolutely the wrong reason to even think about legalizing recreational marijuana," said Hickenlooper.

Still, many strapped state leaders must have been keen to hear how the state will use all that cash.

Hickenlooper said the state intends to use the bulk of the money for schools, substance abuse treatment, and preventing young people from getting stoned. The latter will get more than $45 million in funds. By comparison, a little over $15 million will go into law enforcement and regulatory oversight of the industry.