So far, the experiment to legalize marijuana in Colorado has to be making New Mexico lawmakers, always on the lookout for new money, more than a little jealous.
Just more than a month into the experiment, Colorado expects to earn $184 million in taxes from the legal marijuana market over the first 18 months of sales.
The state is projecting sales of about $610 million, higher than originally projected, from Jan. 1 of this year until June 30, 2015, the end of Colorado’s next fiscal year.
With the windfall, Colorado is considering spending some $45.5 million to prevent kids from using pot; that seems a waste, since it’s obvious that horse has left the barn.
While the science is clear that marijuana use is not good for younger brains, it’s going to be difficult to stop teenagers from inhaling when they see the adults among them indulging. Other destinations for the tax revenue will be $40.4 million to treat substance abuse and another $12.4 million for public health, according to one budget proposal being considered.
New Mexico failed to put a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment on the ballot during this short legislative session. But the tax dollars flowing into Colorado coffers surely will make legislators consider legalization more closely in the years ahead.
And New Mexico has great need for this money. The most logical use, should New Mexico decide to legalize marijuana, would be to invest dollars in rehabilitation and treatment for alcoholics and hard drug users.
Ironically, money from marijuana might be the way to help New Mexico kick other addictions.
What did come out of the recent session is a nonbinding House memorial to study the effects of marijuana legalization both in Colorado and Washington states. The Legislative Finance Committee is charged with conducting the study, looking for legalization’s effects on state revenue, agricultural production and law enforcement. It’s essential, too, to see how states are dealing with driving under the influence of marijuana and how workplaces are handling employee pot use.
It’s more complicated than legalize and watch the money flow in.
However, criminalizing what so many people use is not working. Especially, as more is learned about the medicinal possibilities of marijuana, it makes sense to find a way to take the profits out of the hands of criminals. A study is a smart place to begin.
— The Santa Fe New Mexican