Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Denver Post commentary headlined "As GOP candidates debate economy, Colorado pot offers opportunity: Newly legal industry promises riches, jobs." Here are excerpts:
As Republican presidential candidates prepare to debate economic issues in Boulder, the sweet smell of success for the state's legally sold marijuana industry seems impossible to overlook.
Nationally the legal industry brought in about $3 billion in 2014 but is projected to grow to more than $8 billion by 2018, if current politics stay the course, according to the Marijuana Industry Factbook.
Colorado racked up $700 million in sales of recreational and medical pot last year — nearly $76 million in tax revenue, including $13 million in licenses and fees. The industry is expected to top $1 billion this year. Combined sales in Colorado topped $100 million in August, compared with about $47 million in August 2014.
That economic impact could explode as 11 states consider joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in legalizing recreational marijuana. The question remains whether the economic argument comes in louder than Republicans' concerns about the moral and public health implications, as well as a view that the 10th Amendment gives states the right to decide.
"There is no argument that marijuana is having a huge economic impact," said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Denver-based Marijuana Industry Group. "When we started out, the top concern was safety, but I think almost everyone recognizes that this hasn't had an impact on traffic safety, crime rates or teen use, and it's safer than alcohol on a lot of fronts.
"Economically, Business Insider has said Colorado has the fastest growing economy. We had record tourism last year and home sales are through the roof. I don't know how much you can attribute that to marijuana, but you can't say it's hurting our economy."...
None of the candidates — Republican or Democrat — have gotten specific on banking, regulations or taxation — issues Colorado lawmakers have had to figure out on their own.
Politically, pot probably won't make or break any candidate, said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont who sponsors most of the marijuana bills in the legislature. Constituents in his district haven't rewarded or punished him politically, but they expect marijuana to be regulated responsibly, he said.
"Any candidate who chooses to overturn what voters in Colorado, Washington and other states have done, I think, do so at their own political peril," he said. "I think the war on drugs is over, and I don't think there's a broad interest out there to re- litigate the past."
Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said a continued pro-business approach is crucial on the issue. "We simply cannot allow bureaucrats and special interests to dictate the winners and losers in the industry," he said. "Rather, we should be standing up for all Americans, no matter their race or socioeconomic status, to have the opportunity to partake in Colorado's fastest growing industry and soon the nation's newest economic driver.
"Colorado voters took over the job of the GOP and stuck it to the feds. The result? 18,000-plus jobs and millions in revenue; take note candidates, take note."