In 2014, Colorado was the first state to allow entrepreneurs to open stores to sell marijuana to anyone over the age of 21. By Jan. 1 of that year, permits were issued, stores were built and marijuana was flying off the shelf.
“As voters we were visionaries,” said Rachel Gillette, a Denver-based attorney who represents cannabis companies.
The most obvious and visible benefit Colorado is seeing is the revenue marijuana taxes have generated for state and local governments. In total, marijuana taxes make up about 1.5 percent of the state’s total budget equaling about $130 million last year.
Much of the money is earmarked for public works projects. A recent state law requires that $40 million dollars of marijuana money go toward rehabbing and constructing public schools.
“When I look around I see a very positive impact of legalization,” Gillette said.
The industry is credited for an explosion of new jobs. Colorado’s unemployment rate is 3.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s one of the lowest in the country and below the national average. Compare that to New Mexico’s 6.0 percent.