Once upon a time in the Mile High City, back in 2012, a wee plant known as marijuana carried with it, to some, the same stigma as heroin. There was lively discussion around the state about legalizing marijuana, or cannabis, use and allowing it to be sold recreationally. Folks were divided. It seemed half the population was for it—they were tired of toking in the shadows—and half thought it was the gateway drug.
Before the spirited legalization movement came to life, however, there was the 22nd Amendment. Enacted on March 30, 1917, it prohibited cannabis use in Colorado. Right around the time of Prohibition came the Marihuana Tax Act, which rolled out on October 1, 1937. This made arrests and convictions possible for those in possession of that five-pointed leaf in its smokeable form.
That same year, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Denver PD arrested Moses Baca for possession and Samuel Caldwell for dealing. They became the first marijuana convictions in the state. Since then, the leafy green has been heavily frowned upon. Jump to 1975, when arrests for possession skyrocketed to 118 percent.
As states began to follow Vermont’s example and legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis, that early period of time was one of education. Many weren’t that knowledgeable, and in typical fashion, threw stones at the unknown, making vastly incorrect assumptions (such as, everyone will have a needle in their arm if this passes). Such statements were made by ill-informed folks who also feared what they didn’t know.
At the same time, those who had experienced the effects of cannabis, in one way or another, shrugged the conversation off, as they were confident it would pass. There was even speculation that the state’s economy would not only strengthen but see a vast increase of income and perhaps put the books in the black.
Amendment 64 did indeed pass, which led to legalization in January 2014. That same year, the first year of implementation, Colorado’s legal marijuana market (medical and recreational) reached a meager total of $700 million.
Suddenly, dispensaries were everywhere. Local publications had pages devoted to ads for these new businesses. The strong debate dissipated faster than the haze of a joint. For those who venture out and about in downtown, Denver the effects can be seen. The demand for workers is high (no pun intended).
It seems that cannabis legalization has led to something of a boom here in Colorado. Since then, the state has enjoyed a period of prosperity, enlightenment, and heavy cravings of Goldfish crackers. As we weather the current storm, rest assured those things aren’t just going to go away.