The results are in: taxes from recreational weed sales in Colorado totaled $44 million. While that number is far lower than estimates it is still tens of millions of dollars more than the previous year. Add taxes revenue from medical pot and other fees and the figure rises to $76 million for 2014 according to the Associated Press. While some media outlets celebrated the newfound windfall, others framed it in the gloomiest way possible. “Colorado’s Pot Revenue Goes Up in Smoke,” reads a headline from the Daily Beast.
Although it’s true the returns aren’t as much as officials expected, they’re still significant and don’t really tell the whole story. What’s not included in these figures is all the revenue that’s being generated by ancillary industries such as tourism, real estate, and advertising, among other sectors.
Also not discussed is the amount of money the state is saving by not wasting resources prosecuting weed offenses or the benefits that a more focused police force has to society when it’s not busting adults for smoking weed — not to mention the general psychological benefits of having increased personal freedom to legally consume a relatively benign drug that the government has been lying about all along.
Undoubtedly, the economics of legal weed should be scrutinized, so steps can be taken to tweak and improve the program, but let’s also be sure to keep things in perspective: The bong is half full, not empty.
(Original photo: Don Goofy)