As scientists and politicians continue to debate the medicinal and social arguments for and against legalizing marijuana, a new report reveals that doing so may bring some incredible economic benefits. Produced by the Marijuana Policy Group (MPG), the study finds that in 2015, the regulated marijuana industry generated a staggering $2.39 billion worth of economic activity in Colorado alone.
Over the course of the year, above-board cannabis trading also helped to create 18,005 full-time jobs, and allowed the state government to rake in $121 million in tax – which is more than three times the amount collected from alcohol tax, and 14 percent more than casino revenues.
Of the $2.39 billion, $996 million came from sales revenues, with a total of 132 tonnes (145 tons) of cannabis having been traded in 2015. The rest of this money is accounted for by the other economic activities that support the legal marijuana industry, such as warehousing, security, legal services, and more.
Despite legal marijuana only having been available in Colorado since January 2014, the industry has already eclipsed many of the state’s more traditional sectors, such as gold mining. Amazingly, sales of cannabis were only $9 million dollars less than cigarette sales in 2015.
In an interview with the Washington Post, MPG founder Adam Orens explained that “if this is done right, regulated right, taxed right, this industry can bring real economic benefits to a state.”
Furthermore, despite the huge revenues generated by legalized marijuana, the report’s authors insist that this doesn’t mean more people are using the drug than previously. Instead, they claim that these sales figures are merely the result of people switching from the black market to the regulated market when buying their weed.
Finally, they calculate that the state’s marijuana market will reach its peak in 2020, at which point they expect sales revenues to reach $1.52 billion and tax revenues to eclipse those from cigarettes.
With five more states set to vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana on election day, the findings of this report could well be of interest to voters concerned about the condition of local economies.