Limited marijuana possession has been legal for over a year in Colorado and retail shops have been open for almost two months. This means there is now real data showing that legalization is going well and mostly as its backers intended. These five numbers tell the story:
1) 77 percent decrease in state court marijuana cases - Legalization has caused marijuana arrest to plummet saving the state money. This drop is remarkable given that Colorado already had fairly liberal marijuana laws before Amendment 64 was approved. The Denver Post found, “the number of cases filed in state court alleging at least one marijuana offense plunged 77 percent between 2012 and 2013. The decline is most notable for charges of petty marijuana possession, which dropped from an average of 714 per month during the first nine months of 2012 to 133 per month during the same period in 2013 — a decline of 81 percent.”
2) $184 Million in new tax revenue – Legal marijuana sales are now projected to bring in $184 million in new tax revenue for the state during the first 18 months. This is higher than initial projections. Much of this money will go to education and drug treatment.
This number isn’t just important because it will help the state balance its budget. Significant tax revenue also proves that people are choosing to move from the black market to the new legal system even though there are high excise taxes.
3) 58 percent support for legalization – Now the that people of Colorado have gotten a chance to directly experience legalization they are increasingly supportive. Currently 58 percent of voters in Colorado support the new legalization law while only 39 percent oppose it. By comparison, in 2012 the ballot measure only won by 55.3 percent yes to 44.7 percent no.
4) 10 percent last month usage rate – In the first month after retail stores opened only 10 percent of Colorado voters said they actually used marijuana. This is right in line with use rates before legalization, showing it has not turned the state into a “land of potheads.”
5) 6.3 percent increase in airline flight searches – Early indications are that legalization will also be a modest boost for tourism. According to Hopper, “Flight search demand for Denver has been 6.3% above the national search average since December 1st.” During the first week of January flight searches were up 14 percent.
Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado marijuana arrests are way down, tax revenue is up and support for reform continues to grow. This is what success looks like.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy