In the first year that you could legally purchase marijuana in Colorado for any purpose you so choose, over 17 tons of the leafy green substance was sold within the state’s boundaries. The state’s government is projecting that over $700 million worth of weed was sold in Colorado last year — about $386 million in medical marijuana and another $313 million in the recreational variety. Sales of edible marijuana even outpaced traditional “flower” sales of the product, resulting in what can only be described as an industrial boom in the state.
So how do local residents feel about pot, a year after it’s been legal to buy, sell and trade in Colorado under strict state regulations?
“Whatever,” says John Michael Vincenzo as I asked him about his feelings on legal weed. “I mean, people are going to smoke pot. People are going to have a couple shots of whiskey. People are going to drink beer,” Vincenzo, a resident of Broomfield, Colorado, tells me, “and the only difference I see is that stoners aren’t beating their wives or crashing their SUVs into school buses after all-night weed benders.”
Vincenzo has lived in the State of Colorado his whole life. He has seen the state’s push to first legalize medical marijuana and regulate the growth and distribution of cannabis, and he has witnessed firsthand the impact that giving a completely new revenue stream in the state has had. He tells me, “In 20 years when our schools, roads, and other infrastructure are vastly superior to the states’ that decided to stay in the Dark Ages on weed, maybe they’ll all see then.”
But doesn’t John Michael feel unsafe in a state where a substance that is still a Federally-controlled drug is allowed to be sold freely? “Hell no! Crime is down over 10% overall, and violent crime is actually down 5% over 2013,” Vincenzo tells me.
I asked him if he was afraid his state’s economy would grind to a halt as everyone slowly started smoking more and more pot, culminating in a situation where literally no one went to work each day and instead stayed home and played Nintendo Wii and ate Hostess cupcakes. “There are over 320 pot retailers in the state, up from 200 just a year ago. There have been over 830 retail applications were approved last year, and over 1,400 medical marijuana sales licenses were issued. If anything, we have opened up a whole new, legitimate marketplace with the potential to see up to a billion dollars in extra commerce generated. I’d say our economy will be just fine,” Vincenzo tells me.
Surely though, there have been some people who have “buyers’ remorse” about legalizing weed? Surely there are some in the state who have seen what legalizing marijuana completely did to the state and regret it, right? “Actually,” said Vincenzo, “current polls show that legalized marijuana is still favored in this state by 58% of its residents. The only remorse most of us have is not legalizing it sooner.”
So would Vincenzo recommend that other states legalize marijuana? “If you’re not a fan of hundreds of millions of new dollars pumped into your economy, or if you’re a big fan of mandatory minimum sentencing, or if you’re really big into incarcerating an alarming swath of the African-American community…then no. Otherwise, if you’re a sentient, carbon-based life form born after 1950 or so, yeah, you probably want to legalize it in your state.”
“It’s just not that big a deal,” Vincenzo tells me as he wraps up the phone interview. “Of course it’s not a big deal. It’s 2015.” I ask Vincenzo if he’s a recreational or medical marijuana user. “Not really. I don’t really drink either. But I’m an adult, and I like the idea of knowing that if I wanted to, I could smoke a joint or have a beer in my state now, and I’d never see the back end of jail cell bars for it either. That’s what needs to happen in all fifty states now.” Vincenzo paused a moment.
“After all, it’s just pot.”