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One of the major arguments used by the opponents of cannabis legalization is that widespread availability will – almost naturally – trigger increased use among the population, especially amongst youth. Looking at available data from Colorado, it would appear this is not the case.
The 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey indicates that use among teenagers has hardly changed since the first retail store for recreational cannabis opened in Colorado in January 2014.
From a financial perspective, it seems so. Colorado imposes a 2.9% sales tax on medical and recreational cannabis as well as an additional 10% sales tax as well as a 15% excise tax on recreational cannabis. According to the latest figures published by the Colorado Department of Revenue:
In April 2016 alone, the revenue from cannabis taxation, licensing and fees amounted to USD 17,183.162 (of which only USD 1,145.069 was retrieved from the sales of medical cannabis), compared to USD 10,617.311 in April 2015.
Between April 2015 and April 2016, the state earned USD 142.218,370, compared to USD 91,068,724 during the previous year. This marks an increase of 56.2%.
Legalization has also visibly impacted the crime statistics in Colorado. According to recent statistics, the overall amount of cannabis-related arrests has dropped by 95% since 2010. Additionally, data from the Colorado Court system in 2014, cannabis possession arrests have dropped 84% since 2010 and arrests for cultivating and distributing cannabis have also dropped by more than 90%.
The fear of an increase of driving under (cannabis) influence (DUI) has been major argument of legalization opponents. Colorado State Patrol reported that the number of citations issued for impaired driving from cannabis has fallen slightly since the agency started tracking the numbers two years ago. In 2015, troopers handed out 4,546 citations for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with 665 including cannabis and 347 of them – or 7.6%- involving only this drug. These numbers decreased 1.3% from 2014, where 5,546 citations were given, 647 involving cannabis. More concerning is that through the “Drive High, Get a DUI” campaign, the Colorado Department of Transportation reported that 51% of cannabis ere not aware that driving under the influence of cannabis was prohibited.
It has yet to be seen whether the developments observed in Colorado may prove to be a global phenomenon or if they will only be copied in the US. On an international level, despite the fact that Uruguay de facto legalized cannabis for non-medical purposes in December 2013, we still have very little data.
Colorado imposes a 2.9% sales tax on medical and recreational cannabis as well as an additional 10% sales tax as well as a 15% excise tax on recreational cannabis. According to the latest figures published by the Colorado Department of Revenue:
In 2015, troopers handed out 4,546 citations for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,