Colorado

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ campaign to prosecute states with legal marijuana just prompted a truly epic response from Colorado Senate Democrats.

Currently, eight states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state — along with Washington, DC have legal marijuana laws on the books for recreational use.

Colorado
Blue: Legal marijuana for recreational use Red: Legal marijuana for medical use White: Illegal (Map by Global Look Press)

Colorado was the first state to put its legal pot laws into effect after a 2012 ballot initiative changed current laws. Now, more than five years after weed became legal in the Centennial State, the state’s senate Democrats have a wealth of data to draw upon to highlight the benefits of legalized recreational marijuana.

“We’ll give Jeff Sessions our legal pot when he pries it out of our warm, extremely interesting to look at hands,” a tweet from the Colorado Senate Dems account reads, before going into a litany of statistics about how legal marijuana has benefited the state’s economy, tax base, and schools.

Aside from Colorado, legalized marijuana has also been a tremendous boon for Washington state, which passed a similar ballot question the same year Colorado did. Because those two states have had legal marijuana laws the longest, they provide the best case studies for the long-term benefits of legal marijuana.

Forbes reported that in 2016, two of the top five highest-performing state economies were Colorado (#5) and Washington state (#2) — four years after marijuana became fully legalized. While Colorado’s weed revenue goes to schools, 60 percent of Washington state’s legal marijuana tax receipts go toward bolstering state Medicaid programs, providing healthcare for low-income families. And in July of 2016, Washington state topped $1 billion in legal marijuana sales.

Colorado’s economy generated 15,000 new jobs in 2015 as a direct result of legal marijuana, which created an additional $2.4 billion in economic activity by itself. And in 2016, Colorado’s weed dispensaries provided the state with an additional $200 million in tax revenue. As the Colorado Senate Democrats pointed out, this is money that goes to public schools, rather than drug cartels. In 2015, the Border Patrol’s seizures of marijuana crossing the Mexico/U.S. border fell to just 1.5 million pounds — down from 6 million pounds in 2009.

Jeff Sessions’ battle with legal marijuana is not only bad law enforcement policy, it’s bad politics. A Gallup poll from October 2017 found that 64 percent of Americans now support legal weed. Even 51 percent of Republicans support the full legalization of cannabis, according to the survey. In purple states with legal pot like Colorado and Nevada, Sessions’ new drug war could put state-level Republicans in the uncomfortable position of publicly dissenting with the Trump administration in order to stay in their constituents’ good graces.

According to Newsweek, roughly a dozen more states are considering following Colorado’s lead and fully legalizing marijuana for recreational use in 2018. The list includes both red and blue states like Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Other states like Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah are considering medical marijuana.

If Democrats are smart, they’ll get on the legal weed train and ride it all the way to electoral victories across the country in November.

 

Matthew P. Robbins is a freelance economics contributor covering wages, budgets, and taxes. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his husband and two cats. 

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