Marijuana Reform in Colorado

After a historic 2012 ballot initiative victory (approval of Amendment 64), Colorado has ended nearly a century of marijuana prohibition and is leading the nation toward targeted tax revenue allocations and regulation of marijuana for adult use.

The Results of Legalization

  • Marijuana is a steadily growing source of revenue for Colorado, starting in the first year of retail sales (2014) when over $67 Million was collected. In 2017 alone, marijuana revenue in Colorado exceeded $205 Million.
  • Colorado distributed $230 million to the Colorado Department of Education between 2015 and 2017 to fund school construction, early literacy, bullying prevention, and behavioral health. 
  • An allocation from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund is now funding four Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion pilot programs in Colorado. These programs are creating meaningful alternatives to criminal justice involvement for Coloradans with mental health or substance use issues by increasing the treatment, public health and harm reduction infrastructures in awardee communities.
  • Rates of marijuana use among high school students in Colorado largely resemble national rates. These results are promising, suggesting that fears of widespread increases in use have not come to fruition.
  • An analysis of opioid overdose deaths in Colorado found that after marijuana was legalized for adult use there was a reduction of 0.7 deaths per month in the state and that the decades-long upward trend of overdoses began to decline after 2014, the first year of marijuana retail sales in the state.
  • The total number of arrests for driving under the influence, for alcohol and other drugs, has declined in Colorado.

Read more about the positive impacts of marijuana legalization and areas for further growth in our status report.

Our Work

DPA has been an integral voice in the development of sane, effective marijuana regulations:

  • We monitor emerging policies surrounding both medical and retail marijuana throughout the state to ensure implementation is reasonable and reflective of public health and safety priorities.
  • We seek to ensure that prevention and enforcement efforts, particularly for youth, reflect a true commitment to reducing marijuana-related drug arrests and collateral consequences.
  • We seek to add equity and inclusion to an already viable and regulated marketplace that protects medical marijuana patients and is fair for retail consumers. 

Once the 2012 initiative passed, DPA immediately went to work to ensure those between the ages of 18-20 would not become the new and sole targets of marijuana prohibition efforts in Colorado. The city of Denver has now instituted civil fines for this age group and we are involved on the state level to institute a uniform system of diversion focusing on education instead of criminalization for young people regarding marijuana use and possession.

In June of 2017, HB17-1266 was signed into law, allowing persons who were convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana-related behaviors that are no longer illegal under Amendment 64 to petition for the sealing of related criminal records. Coloradans who’ve experienced such convictions now have the chance they deserve to move on fully with their lives.

As other states move forward with similar models of taxation and regulation of marijuana for adult use, we will work to ensure that Colorado’s implementation process reflects an evolving commitment to racial equity, reparative justice and public health.

We are also committed to continuously improving Colorado’s medical marijuana program. We recently helped enact legislation to:

  • Add Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions in Colorado’s medical marijuana program (SB17-017)
  • Prohibit courts from requiring medical marijuana patients to abstain from their medicine as a condition of bond (SB17-178)
  • Require school districts to adopt policies allowing medical marijuana use for medically fragile children (HB16-1373)
  • Allow school nurses or their designees to administer medical marijuana to qualifying patients (HB18-1286)
  • Ensure that medical marijuana patients who are on probation are not prohibited from accessing their medicine (HB16-1359)

Moving forward we will support additional reforms to protect vulnerable patients.

Marijuana Legalization and Regulation
Medical Marijuana
Reforming Marijuana Laws