Recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado by a fairly slim margin. Fifty-five percent of the voters supported the measure, leaving 45 percent in opposition. Many of those who were against becoming the first state to legalize recreational marijuana were concerned that it would result in Colorado becoming a Mecca for drug users. However, the population of the state of Colorado did not accelerate to abnormal levels after cannabis was approved for recreational use the way that some feared. It was also believed in some circles that city centers and other areas where recreational marijuana was sold would become unpleasant places due to clouds of smoke and other signs of cannabis use, but this has not proven to be the case. Smoking cannabis in public remains illegal in Colorado, and the law is strictly enforced.
The legalization of recreational marijuana has actually been an economic boon for the state of Colorado. Marijuana events have become somewhat commonplace, providing a niche for private entrepreneurs who therefore circulate the money that they have generated back into the state’s economy. Cannabis tourism is on the way to becoming an extremely economically viable industry that benefits more than just those who grow and sell recreational marijuana products. Hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses also benefit from the increase in visitors. On top of that, sales of recreational marijuana are taxed at a whopping 25 percent along with the state sales tax of 2.9 percent. Individual communities have the right to impose their own sales tax on the products and to use that money for community funded services. Slightly under half of the tax dollars generated by the sales of recreational marijuana are used to fund new and existing schools, and Colorado’s state coffers have never been in better financial shape.
Because the legalizing recreational marijuana has had such a positive effect on the state of Colorado, industry analysts believe that other states will begin following suit in upcoming years. Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have also passed similar laws, although not enough time has gone by to get a true picture of either positive or negative financial or social impacts on these states. There several more states slated to decide this issue at the ballot box in 2016, including California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Maine. Although both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana remains illegal at federal levels, that may also change in the near future.