Commercial Marijuana in Colorado – One Year Later

First year of a regulated commercial marijuana market in the state of Colorado

The right to purchase marijuana legally in the state of Colorado occurred gradually. In 2000, voters approved a measure to allow the use of medical marijuana for approved patients with written medical consent; however the commercialization of medical marijuana did not become widespread until 2009. In 2012, Amendment 64 regulated marijuana similarly to alcohol and as of January 1st, 2014, Colorado became the first state to implement retail sales of marijuana for recreational use to adults aged 21 years and older. In addition to smoked or inhaled forms of cannabis herb and resin, the commercial marketplace has made available a wide range of THC-containing food products, or “edibles”.

One year later, 502 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and 322 state-licensed retail stores were operating throughout the state. Altogether, Colorado's legal marijuana market reached total sales of $700 million. 


According to the results of the United States National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the prevalence of marijuana use in Colorado is higher, and is increasing faster, than the national average. And, while there is no causal evidence to connect legislation to prevalence of use, peaks in past-year prevalence appear to coincide with laws easing restrictions on personal consumption. In addition, the number of primary treatment admissions is growing among people aged 12 and older, and has exceeded the national average since 2003.

Reaching an average of 18.7 per cent, the THC concentration of legally sold cannabis in Colorado is relatively high. Moreover, according to the Colorado State Patrol, marijuana was related to 12.2 per cent of all citations for driving under the influence of any substance in 2014, while among road accidents involving fatalities the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 37 in 2006 to 78 in 2012.

Excerpt from The World Drug Report 2015 (UNODC)

While legal marijuana supporters boasted that legalization would generate se sizable tax windfall and opponents warned that it could have dramatic social consequences, marijuana legalization hasn't been so far the boon or bane that many expected. In conclusion, one must emphasize that it may take several years before any change attributable to marijuana legalization is evident, including the effect, if any, of legal marijuana on teenage drug use, school dropout, or the number of fatal car crashes.

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