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Life in Colorado After One Year of Legal Marijuana

legal marijuana sales in Colorado. I hope they make enough money to paint the top of the building!

Our town’s first legal marijuana store. I hope they make enough money for a new paint job!



January marked year one since pot became legal for recreational sale in my home state. I though it might be interesting to see what changes, if any, have befallen our area. This is my eye witness report of life in Colorado after one year of legal marijuana.

Marijuana Tax Bonanza!

The tax figures are in regarding state money made from marijuana sales last year.

  • Sales from legal recreational and medical marijuana amounted to $700 million last year.
  • Recreational sales were below some estimates but still brought in $44 million in tax revenue.
  • Medical marijuana sales and fees brought in an additional $35 million, bringing total pot tax revenue to $76 million.

Marijuana made so much money that the state might have to give some back. Here in Colorado, we have what’s known as the TABOR amendment. It’s highly controversial, but basically says that any time tax revenue grows faster than the state population or inflation, it has be refunded to tax payers unless voters elect otherwise. You can bet there will be a special election coming up soon. The state doesn’t want their tax money to go up in smoke!

In addition to sales tax, I’ve seen other business who are cashing in on marijuana. You can visit coloradopotguide.com to find weed friendly accommodations in Colorado. There are also a variety of cannabis tours that offer transportation, lodging, and a green gift bag to visitors. While vendors of pot do have their own trouble with banking, rules, and regulations, the job market related to marijuana sales seems to be poised for huge growth over the next several years.

Did Marijuana Increase Crime?

It depends on what type of crime. Most of the statistics seem to agree that crime went down in 2014. All violent crime rates, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were lower last year. Fatal car accidents did not increase. Burglary, larceny, and auto theft were down as well. The only serious crime rate that rose in Denver was for arson, which increased by 30%. It seems pot smokers may be burning down the house!

Last year brought more butane explosions due to hash extraction methods. There were also more police calls for complaints of strong odors and for ER visits due to overuse of marijuana, either from smoking or edibles. Many were with tourists not familiar with how strong some types of legal marijuana actually are or from children who thought they were eating candy. I’ve read more than one local article warning visitors to take it easy if they plan to imbibe while on vacation. There are reports of adults committing crimes or suicide while under the influence of marijuana, but no one can say if those are due to legalization or not.

It’s easy to push statistics to favor whatever viewpoint you are trying to promote. I asked a few police officers and a local judge if they’ve seen an increase in crime related to marijuana legalization. All of them confirmed my thoughts that people who consume marijuana generally don’t commit violent crimes. In fact, one officer estimated that 95% of his arrests were related to alcohol, not marijuana use.

Our Neighbors Are Not So Happy

Lawsuits are popping up right and left regarding legalization of marijuana. Private business as well as the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado with the claim that legal marijuana has either hurt their business or caused illegal trafficking across the borders. Since selling marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, these lawsuits are trying to shut down pot sales with the claim that they are unconstitutional.

I do see some relevance for business owners. Family businesses could see a decline in traffic if a pot store opens up next door. I’m not sure about the other states. I think people who want to sell pot illegally will always find ways to do so, whether they live near a marijuana friendly state or not.

Public Perception

Late night comedians have to be thanking Colorado for actually being “the highest state in the US.” When Denver played Seattle in the NFL playoffs last month, we kept hearing about the “Weed Bowl” or the “Doobie Bowl.” It was funny the first dozen times.

You also have conservative people who think legalization of marijuana is the beginning of the apocalypse. My Mother believes that we are all probably going straight to Hell for even living in a pot legal state. Of course, the town where I grew up is in a real life dry county, so you can see how legalizing weed might seem very dire indeed.

One Coloradan’s Thoughts

My thoughts are that people are going to do what they want to do. Does being in a dry county stop people from drinking? No, it just means they have to drive across the border to buy alcohol. Do laws against pot keep people from using it? Nope.

Will my child want to smoke pot more because it’s legal here? Probably not. Will she try pot at some point? I’d be a fool to think she won’t. All I can do is keep an honest discussion open regarding all the temptations that will pop up throughout her adolescence. It’s still illegal for anyone under 21 to buy pot or alcohol, but that doesn’t mean kids won’t find ways to indulge. Thinking your kid won’t smoke pot because it’s illegal works about as well as Sarah Palin’s family plan for abstinence before marriage.

Now, I wouldn’t want to legalize everything on that principle. Making meth or cocaine legal would not be a good thing, but I really believe marijuana does no more harm than cigarette smoking.  I think it does less harm than alcohol. None of those are healthy and without risks, but you can’t really say one is that much worse than the other.

As far as life in Colorado, I have noticed no change. Our town just allowed its first recreational marijuana sales license and another is pending approval. Other than seeing a big green cross sign as I drive down the street, I doubt I’ll be affected one way or another. I have no more interest in consuming marijuana now than I did a year ago. People are not allowed to smoke pot in public places, and I have not noticed stoned people running around town. With the average recreational sale around $300-$400, most people I know probably can’t afford it anyway.

I guess Colorado is still kind of an experiment in progress. Time will tell if we really are opening the door to anarchy or if we have found a viable way to fund some of the much needed programs that never seem to have enough money.

Would you be happy or sad if your state legalized marijuana? Should I give up optometry and go into the green tourism business?






About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Ha! I grew up in a dry county and my mother thought the same thing – “The end is coming! The end is coming!” Crazy isn’t it? I’m really surprised that other states haven’t jumped on the pot bandwagon, but I suppose that’s due to crazy conservatism.

    • I can’t ever see most Southern states or states like Wyoming or Utah jumping on board. I am surprised that the east and west coasts haven’t legalized it already.

  2. I’ll be interested to see how you view your town next year, after the legalized shops have been running for a year. I’m not sure whether or not I agree with pot legalization. I do know that I, in the younger years, was around LOTS of illegally pot-smoking people, and man, they did some dumb and highly dangerous things. Let’s just hope the people who do it are doing it within the confines of their own homes.

    • We will certainly see how it plays out. I think people who have always smoked pot illegally will probably continue to buy it on the black market and those who are curious or legitimately need it medically but don’t have a card are the ones who will be going to the stores. They had the first customer for the new recreational store and he said he was buying edibles to try and replace a prescription sleep medicine he had been taking. In that case, I don’t think it’s any worse than the pharmacy except that you can’t really regulate the strength or dosage.

  3. I can only imagine that business related to pot are doing quite well – it’s inevitable in my opinion. That said, living in Nebraska it’s somewhat amusing seeing the lawsuits and complaints related to what’s going on. We have far too many issues going on here in our state than to worry about pot.

  4. We noticed lots of pot-related businesses when we were in Colorado last year- like “bud and breakfasts.” LOL I wish they would just legalize it nationally. You can’t stop people from doing it so why spend time and money trying.

  5. I looked into this issue around the same time I became interested in Ron Paul’s political views in 2008. After spending some time actually researching the issue, it became obvious that prohibition has caused MUCH more harm than good. How you approach the issue greatly impacts your view on it. If you think the government should do everything they can to “protect people from themselves” you are going to support prohibition (not just of MJ, but many other things). If you approach it from a libertarian perspective you will be in favor of legalization…especially once you realize it’s much safer than alcohol.

  6. the only thing I disagree with is that you said pot is more harmful than cigarettes. I, at least what I have witnessed, found that more people are way more addicted to cigarettes than smoking weed. But in realty anyone who NEEDS pot (other than for medical reasons probably has a problem). 🙂 I wouldn’t care if they legalized it here. I think alcohol and when it comes to driving texting is more of a problem than people who smoke pot. Heck and this point prescription drugs might even be a bigger problem!

    • I meant to say no more harmful than cigarettes so I need to go back and correct that. I agree with your thoughts completely.

  7. I am a big fan of pot legalization. I would rather see states make tax revenue and save public resources on trying to thwart the sale and usage. I would also rather see people smoke pot than cigarettes since it’s a natural substance with no added chemicals like cigarettes. In my mind, I see pot like alcohol and just because alcohol is legal doesn’t mean everyone drinks and consumes it. I am not a smoker myself, but I don’t judge or have an issue with people who do as long as they do it responsibly. It’s interesting to watch how legalization has played out for Colorado and it will be interesting to see what the rest of the country does as a result.

    • I’m sure if the money card keeps playing itself, many more states are going to jump on board. Utah relaxed it’s liquor licenses in time for the winter Olympics there a while back. It wasn’t because they got more liberal, they just didn’t want to miss out on all those tourism dollars.

  8. I really appreciate this overview! Currently I live in Oregon, so places are gearing up all around town for when July hits. What really gets me is the understanding of the law and how people do not realize that even though it has passed at state level, it is still illegal under federal law. The outrage from some people was quite mind boggling because they had this mentality that people would be utilizing marijuana all over town, and come to work under the influence. With pot legalization, I really don’t foresee people running rampant around town (just as you mentioned). I also happened to visit friends in Colorado pre-legalization and post-legalization. I know this is just one person’a perspective, but the only thing that seemed any different was just a slight odor at my friends’ apartment complex from her neighbors (but who says that smell wouldn’t have been there when it wasn’t legal either), and the appearance of more signage for dispensaries. I will have to look back in July of 2016 on a year in review for Oregon as well! It will be vastly interesting to see if there are any subtle, or dramatic changes.


    • That is so true, and each town has to approve licenses before pot shops can open. I guess it’s pretty hard to get all the proper licenses and inspections as well. Just because pot is legal here, people can’t show up high for work, and many jobs still require people to pass a drug test where testing positive for marijuana means they don’t get the job. You can’t show up for work drunk, so it’s the same deal.

  9. Interesting that so many people embrace pot but condemn cigarettes. Personally, I’m waiting for some corporation to begin opening pot shops so I can invest. If this product is as wonderful as its’ supporters feel it is, then it surely can’t be classified as a sin stock, so why not make some money off of it?

    • Kathy, I believe you can do that. There is actually a website called marijuanastocks.com. I think smoking pot is probably as bad as cigarettes but due to cost and functionality, it’s easier to be a chain cigarette smoker.

  10. I think you’ll know best by Taco Bell and Dorito sales.

  11. It’s interesting to hear your perspective, Kim. I go back and forth on the legalization of pot. There are pro’s and con’s to each side. I do think in comparison to other harder drugs or even alcohol, it probably causes fewer problems.

    • I think it does certainly cause its share of problems, but no worse than alcohol. If they do away with something that causes health problems and crime, alcohol would be a better candidate, but that is never going to happen.

  12. Thanks for writing this! It was a very interesting read coming from someone who is a state where it is not legal.

  13. Lol! Going into the green tourism business would make for some interesting blog posts;0) Marijuana is legal here in Washington state. Shortly after it became legal, we were in Red Robin and one of the bus boys was cleaning a table next to ours. He wreaked of marijuana. We also keep noticing new green crosses pop up. You just can’t help but giggle when you pass by. It does change the dynamic in schools when a dog comes sniffing backpacks. The lingering smell on students, who have hung out with their pot smoking grandma, is intense.

    • I think we’ve only just seen the beginning of green tourism. I don’t think I could ever be a marijuana smoker because I could never stand the smell!

  14. You’re right, the consumption is probably the same, and better get some tax money out of it! The refund sounds like the check Alaskans get every year for oil drilling.
    If your daughter ever tries it, you’ll probably be happier she walks into a shop, pays by credit card and has a product whose quality is a bit controlled, rather than walking in a dark alley in a dodgy neighborhood with a lot of cash on her.
    In Guatemala there is more crime related to drug dealing than to drug consumption, I’d rather it were legal and safer.

    • That’s a very good point. Legalizing marijuana doesn’t mean the black market goes away, it just shuts down a part of it and makes it safer for those who want to follow the rules.

  15. I wouldn’t be happy. I am more of a traditional that’s why I don’t consider marijuana giving an advantage or whatsoever. I still believe that marijuana affects brain development. Marijuana smoke is an irritant to the lungs, and frequent marijuana smokers can have many of the same respiratory problems. I still don’t understand why they legalized the use of it.

    • It all comes down to money plain and simple. If it were about health, there would be no pot, no cigarettes, no booze, probably no McDonalds!

  16. Legalize it all. If one sees a medication on TV that is being advertised, I should be able to buy that too. If it works for Alcohol and Pot, it will work for heroin and coke too.

    And legalize prostitution too. Why is something that is legal to ‘give’ away, illegal to sell??? And it is OK to barter as in a a dinner swap.

  17. The federal govt needs more tax dollars. They tried to tax the internet and the hackers wouldn’t have it. The only reason that the states can try this out is because the feds want to see if it makes money.

    I hate that the Attorney General of the US is playing this little game. ( Most likely with Obamas permission) People easily rationalize this because it is pot. The real danger here is Americans getting used to the idea that individual states can decide to not follow federal law. It won’t be so amusing when some state wants to rescind federal laws against racism or slavery. Let’s go back one hundred years and say that women don’t have the right to own property or vote. Maybe we should get rid of those pesky laws about rape, child abuse …… well, you see my point.

  18. Patrick Labelle

    The real bonanza is for the drug dealers! Imagine this: you are a drug dealer, you have made millions of dollars in the years before legalization. But you are were always scared because your could get all that money seized and end up in jail to boot. Now comes legalization and it feels like you have won the lottery!! You can now safely enjoy all that money you made with absolutely no worries! Even better, you can benefit from your “expertise” as a drug dealer to keep making money. The real winners of legalization are drug dealers and the wonderful decent people who were supporting these drug dealers before legalization.

    Then someone comes along and says but wait, honest people profit from the taxe revenues! Let’s see…Let’s use our brains a little bit. Honest people benefit from the taxes on sales of $700 millions in one year (that’s legal sales, nobody is stupid enough to think that nobody keeps producing and selling on a black market) This means that during the 10 years preceding legalization, drug dealers pocketed somewhere around 7 BILLION dollars. All that money is still in their pockets but now there is no way to seize any of it. And honest people are supposed to be happy about the few percent of taxes that come back to them? Wow. The drug dealers are surely laughing all the way to the bank…

  19. First, I think this is a great article. This would really help people from other places make up their mind as to whether or not they would support weed legalization there.

    Now, here’s my two cents:

    I guess we still have to sit tight and see for one more year how it plays out. One year is hardly enough to judge, since it will always always be crazy after some big change like this one.

    Personally, though, I really don’t care about weed use as long as people do it within the confines of their own homes and under such circumstances that they would not be able to harm anyone when they’re already high.

    Of course, self-inflicted harm is subtly consented in the act of using weed with full knowledge of its effects, so there’s nothing there.

    I rest my case.

  20. I truly surprised to hear when see the sales from legal recreational and medical marijuana amounted to $700 million last year. And I noticed another view is that medical marijuana sales and fees brought in an additional $35 million, bringing total pot tax revenue to $76 million. That’s really interesting. Thank buddy. Its another surprising content. Keep it up! 🙂

  21. Good to know that crimes went down except for Arson, forgive me but this made me chuckle a little. But in all seriousness, this was a pretty smart move to be honest, now that it is legal in your state, taxes are added to the industry leaving the state with a lot of money. It’s a win-win situation. I think what other people/state worry about pot is how the people will abuse the usage of it and of course people will abuse, they do that with almost anything! Including alcohol as well as cigarettes.

    Anyway, Thanks for the article! and Good luck in Colorado! 🙂

  22. Although marijuana is legal in Colorado, it still is not in many other states. If I’m not mistaken, it is considered a drug crime in other states. I’m sure it will stay that way for a while.

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