9 Statistics That Prove Legal Marijuana Is an Economic Boom

A man trims marijuana plants in a production facility

A man trims marijuana plants in a production facility | Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images

The future of marijuana legalization in the United States is hazy, to say the least. A new administration and incoming attorney general have the ability to change things up in a significant way — and possibly pull the plug on the whole shebang.

But there’s one language everyone understands when it comes to traversing the line between politics, business, and public opinion: money. Make that money and jobs. Those are two words sure to perk the ears of even the most stoic politicians.

When it comes to marijuana legalization, the economic argument is turning out to be the most persuasive. Where moral or public safety arguments fail, economic arguments reign supreme. In the case of cannabis, more lawmakers are starting to see the experiments in states, such as Colorado and Washington, are paying off. The states have freed up resources, have found ways to generate even more, and are attracting investments and entrepreneurs.

We worked with the folks at Wikileaf to dig up some dank statistics that prove marijuana legalization has been something of an economic windfall for the states. For Washington and Colorado, the first two states to legalize, total cannabis sales have eclipsed the billion-dollar mark. The states are generating hundreds of millions in tax revenue. For Oregon, which legalized two years after Washington and Colorado, a similar growth pattern is emerging.

All told, tens of thousands of jobs are being created. Entrepreneurs and investors are making good money. And tax revenues, which previously would’ve stayed in the black market, are funneling to state coffers.

Here are nine statistics from Washington, Colorado, and Oregon showing exactly how much of an economic boon marijuana legalization has been. We’ll start with the number of jobs created in each state.

1. Colorado: 23,000 jobs created

An array of marijuana samples are seen on a table at the Cannabis Crown expo in Aspen, Colorado

An array of marijuana samples are seen on a table at the Cannabis Crown expo in Aspen, Colorado | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

According to Wikileaf, 23,000 jobs have been created in Colorado since the state voted for legalization in November 2012. There was already an existing medical market, so it had a bit of a foundation to build on. There’s reason to think that number should continue to grow, as well.

2. Washington: 23,000 jobs created

Seattle skyline

Seattle skyline | iStock.com/welcomia

Washington has kept pace with Colorado, also creating 23,000 jobs, according to Wikileaf’s tally. Washington was in the same boat as Colorado in 2012, already having a medical industry on which to build. Although Colorado opened doors to legal shops earlier, Washington marijuana businesses have kept stride in terms of job creation.

3. Oregon: 11,500 jobs created

A bike and downtown Portland, Oregon

A bike and downtown Portland, Oregon | Travel Portland via Facebook

Oregon is lagging behind the other two states with only 11,500 jobs created, but Colorado and Washington did have a head start. Oregon voters passed the legalization measure in 2014, two years after Colorado and Washington. So it makes sense the state’s marijuana entrepreneurs are playing catch-up.

Next, we’ll look at the total tax revenues the three states generated in 2016.

4. Colorado: $175 million


Denver | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Colorado legislators are raking in the cash — $175 million in tax revenue was generated in 2016 alone, per Wikileaf. In Colorado, consumers pay a couple of different taxes on pot: A 2.9% sales tax and a 10% special sales tax on retail cannabis.

5. Washington: $241 million

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market | Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Washington state lawmakers really hit the jackpot in 2016. Last year, Wikileaf says the state made $241 million in tax revenue. Consumers in Washington pay a steeper tax of 37% when purchasing cannabis or derivatives.

6. Oregon: $55 million

Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon | City of Bend via Facebook

Oregon’s industry still is maturing compared to the other two states. But the state is generating tens of millions in additional tax revenues. In 2016, $55 million was made from marijuana taxes. Consumers in Oregon pay a 17% tax on recreational marijuana.

We’ll wrap up by taking a look at the total legal sales in each state.

7. Colorado: $1 billion

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver | iStock.com

With more than $1 billion worth of marijuana sold in 2016, Colorado is giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “rocky mountain high.” In 2016, cannabis officially became a billion-dollar industry in Colorado.

8. Washington: $1 billion

A Washington beach

A Washington beach | iStock.com

Washington simply won’t be outdone by Colorado. It, too, broke the billion-dollar threshold in 2016, with more than $1 billion in marijuana sales. Like Colorado, that number should only grow as the industry flourishes and becomes more established.

9. Oregon: $160 million

Portland, Oregon and Mt. Hood, a city that's reaping the rewards of marijuana legalization

Portland, Oregon, a city that’s reaping the rewards of marijuana legalization | Thinkstock

Oregon’s holding strong, but isn’t anywhere near $1 billion yet. The state started taxed marijuana sales in January 2016, and for the year overall, it generated $160 million in revenues. That number far outpaced some projections and could set the tone for future projections.

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