Marijuana sales in Colorado will lead to bumper crop of state taxes

After two months of legalised recreational marijuana, sales are through the roof in Colorado: isn’t it about time Caribbean countries took a sensible look at the economic potential?

After two months of legalised recreational marijuana, sales are through the roof in Colorado: isn’t it about time Caribbean countries took a sensible look at the economic potential?

Last year I found myself researching the cannabis laws in Washington State and Colorado for a couple whose dream it is to establish a testing laboratory for medical and recreational marijuana in their hometown of Seattle. She was a medical professional, he was a former law enforcement officer who retired early due to a debilitating disease of the stomach–that’s to say when they tentatively approached me with their “hare-brained” scheme, they did not come off as middle-aged stoners or white Rasta converts.

And so I admit to my preconceived notions that the business of decriminalised marijuana in the USA would be conducted by the old Cheech and Chong stereotypes, or long-haired boarders of the surf-, skate-, and snow- varieties. But I also admit I was very sketchy on the whole subject matter, so set about researching the science, the laws, the numbers and the online media and public reaction to Washington State’s decriminalisation legislation passed in December 2012.

They wanted a marketing plan for their start-up business, a small, state-approved marijuana testing facility, the profits from which the owners were intent on investing into the research and development of cannabinoid derived, non-THC (therefore no ‘high’) medicines, which they were convinced would benefit the health of millions in the long run. Presenting me with scientific papers, links, studies, advocacy groups and legalese-laden documents, I realised these perfectly ordinary people had uncovered a vast base of information about aspects and benefits of marijuana I had never heard of or imagined.

The health benefits of medical marijuana are well-enough documented and proven that 20 US states and Washington DC have legalised its use. But not everyone wants or needs the psychoactive effects of THC. Children, elderly people, working people who can’t afford to be off their heads on a daily basis just to control their symptoms there are a myriad of reasons why patients whose condition could be helped by proven effects of marijuana just don’t want to get stoned.

For me, their vision was a laudable and plausible one: if cannabinoids can benefit sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological conditions, relieve chemo patients of nausea and discomfort, control painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and a list of other diseases, it makes sense that the research should be done on removing the high for those patients who don’t want or need it.

And besides, if ‘Big Medical’ is anything to go by, we have nothing to lose by investigating the full potential of medical marijuana–have you listened to the TV ads for drugs that are supposed to be good for what ails you? As long as you are fortunate enough not to succumb to one of the dozens of possible contra-indications, several of which “may result in death”?

From depression to arthritis to asthma to heart disease, prime time USA cable is a litany of expensive poisons just begging to be prescribed by your physician. So if a natural plant extract could be simply manipulated to remove the one “unwanted” side effect–which by all reports is not the worst drug-induced buzz in the world–wouldn’t you think its time had come, in this end of pot-prohibition era?

From a marketing perspective, the most insane aspect of the whole project were the sales forecasts for recreational marijuana in Washington State, which starts retailing in July 2014: I’ve done a lot of projections in my time, but the potential for revenue from testing a very small (State-mandated) sample of all recreational cannabis forecast to be sold at legal dispensaries was off the scale.

No matter how many times we shaved down the figures, from a profit perspective there was obviously money to be made even using the most conservative assumptions.

Which is what Colorado now knows, not two months into the year of decriminalised marijuana. The cork has exploded on demand, and sales have threatened to exhaust supply at many dispensaries. This week Gov. John W. Hickenlooper estimated that the state’s marijuana industry could reach US$1 billion in sales in the next fiscal year, with recreational sales making up about US $610 million of that business.

“It’s well on its way to being a billion-dollar industry,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a Colorado trade association. Speaking to the New York Times, he added: “We went from 110,000 medical marijuana patients to four billion people in the world who are 21 and up.”

The budget proposal that Mr. Hickenlooper released last Wednesday projects the state could collect about US$134 million in taxes from recreational and medical marijuana for the fiscal year beginning in July. He proposes to spend US$99 million on programs including substance-abuse treatment, preventing marijuana use by children and teenagers, public health and law enforcement.

So what can Saint Lucia learn from Colorado’s imminent fiscal bonanza?

Well, one burgeoning revenue stream from the liberalization of the new green gold comes from the beautifully-monikered ‘ganjapreneurs’, many of whom are (literally) blazing trails in the tourism sector by providing guided pot-tours, dispensary crawls and even sophisticated fine-dining and wine affairs where the guests spark up a designers spliff just before a (presumably) humungous ice cream sundae for dessert.

Think of the possibilities for the island, where we can clearly grow our own ‘international herb’, and already have ganja-tourists giving Saint Lucia high (oops) praise on availability and quality–the only difference would be adding 15% VAT to their beachfront purchases.

We may be stratospheres away from Colorado in terms of our ability as a country to go for broke on legalising cannabis, but with Jamaica pronouncing they will decriminalize before the end of 2014, and a Caricom discussion in the offing, surely it’s time to consider some independent thinking about what a sensible strategy for ganja could offer our decimated island economy. And surely such a strategy would be far superior to say, selling off Saint Lucia and resources to the highest bidder? Of course Pancho De Caires and the Cannabis Movement have done plenty of groundwork in their ‘Ganja Document’, but more about that next time.


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9 Responses to Marijuana sales in Colorado will lead to bumper crop of state taxes

  1. Is it too late to follow Denver……aren’t we a ganja economy any way….where is the vision for tomorrow…..Kenny should be flogged and imprisoned………peti mo

  2. What a usual we will follow in the next ten years….after abuseing a whole generation of young people…….he who knows..knows….Kenny you could of saved stlucia. Like Compton you flirted instead with under aged politics……..think or toof

  3. Beedie Baba says:

    The most destructive part of the whole marijuana deal is the law. When police kill or brutalize petty dealers and sometimes users. Weed use is quite benign but the law aspect is what causes crisis and harm to the society, the law is basically a distraction and an excuse to invade personal rights and freedoms of the individual. The legal system in St. Lucia operates like gut shot cow running down a crowded market, it’s only concern is to mindlessly destroy anything in it’s path without any concern or care. We need to decriminalize ganja today.

  4. Well I position myself long time and I am re$ping before the flood gates open just know. UnfourtuatelyThe Stiff Upper Lip Belligerent Mentality runs rampant down there and the “CLIQUE” and friends of the CLIQUE(they know themselves) lips get even stiffer of notion of the legalization of The Lucian GANJA GOLD. ( Cough cough) yeessss but if they can contain the vast wealth that will be generated for themselves then you will see them edging towards legalization. They love money and power and banana dead, tourism is too fragile. As usual Jamaica is a trend setter not a follower wash everybody play catch up year end. I hope I live to see it

  5. Woodsman says:

    continued from above
    capitalise on the present opportunities my find us playing a catch-up game later on. By then it would be to late to late to take full advantage of the full benefits for being the trailblazers (no pun intended:) ) in a relatively competition free landscape.

  6. Woodsman says:

    What a wonderfully written article. It had me laughing while at the same time was sound in logic :). For some reason images of large swathes of contented and chilled out people in Colorado kept popping in my head. On a serious note though, the precedent has been set – much like online education. Those who fail to grab the opportunity will be left behind. With the banana sector struggling to barely stay afloat and likewise the entire agricultural sector, the government should strongly consider ‘at least’ the THC free hemp variety. It is as versatile a plant as they come. The relevant legislature will have to be strengthened and the applicable laws enforced rigidly. Failure to…

  7. Beedie Baba says:

    Most of the world has been fooled and lied to, you would be shocked to really know who are the bosses of all the drugs being sold world wide, yes, most of them are saintly and well respected by the society. Their secret is well hidden, and we are all being distracted by the so called war on drugs. The war is against the small but visible dealers at the bottom of the chain and users, and this war is so well orchestrated by multi-national businesses who hold a cartel on just about all facets of daily life and business, they create a version of reality that you suckers are all brainwashed into believing. SUCKERS.

  8. Amatus Edwards says:

    Small states like Saint Lucia needs to be careful about the legalization of marijuana. This may have serious consequences for food security on island as farmers may find the cultivation of marijuana more lucrative than that of food. Something to think about.

  9. BetterMedia says:

    I do not smoke marijuana and probably never will, but as far as I can see the benefits far outweigh the detriments. I think we can fault alcohol for breaking up a lot more families than cannabis. Always wondered if the illegality of weed has more to do with how complicated it might be to tax the product than anything else. On the other hand, seeing first hand how the abuse of marijuana can affect a person’s ability to control their emotions is to me at least one reason I would argue for it to be regulated, but not made “illegal”.

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