Some of you may remember the days when marijuana was a “dirty little secret.” Those who used the substance hid it from everyone except for a select few individuals with whom they shared a love for it, and its benefits. Some non-users looked down their noses at marijuana users, and looked at weed-smokers as “druggies” or “stoners.”
Over the past few years, the perception of the substance, and its users, has dramatically changed. A Gallup Poll from last year found that a slim majority (51%) of the nation was actually in favor of legalization.
The movement toward legalization has also drawn closet users out into the open. So, we now know that the drug is not only reserved for burnouts, but also for regular everyday people, and those who have a legitimate medical need for the substance.
The “acceptance” of the substance created a media frenzy last year. In amazement about the fact that it was finally “OK” to write about marijuana without being looked at as a stoner advocate, journalists jumped all over the legalization movement. The dirty little secret was revealed, and a feeling of “oh my goodness, we can all talk about it now” swept the nation.
It’s pretty safe to say that 2014 was an important year for marijuana and the legalization movement. But, now that 2014 is over, is marijuana losing its fire?
1. Recreational marijuana sales in Colorado were high, but they did plateau
And the total comes to (drum roll please)? Over $300 million.
Yes, that’s right. During the year 2014, Colorado sold over $300 million worth of legal, recreational pot.
This number does not even include the nearly $400 million that the state brought in from medical marijuana. Once you add that in, the total for legal marijuana sales rises to just under $700 million.
Although Colorado did sell an impressively large amount of legal weed, you may notice how recreational marijuana sales didn’t keep going up like some thought they would. Sales increased dramatically during the first half of the year. Then, they seemed to peak during the third quarter of the year, and after that they sort of plateaued.
Check out the table below, which indicates the percentage increase or decrease in recreational sales each month. It also includes data on tax revenue. It’s pretty amazing to see just how much recreational marijuana Colorado sold, and the large piles of green it collected as a result.
|Month||Retail Marijuana Sales Tax||% Increase or Decrease in Sales From Previous Month|
|based on tax figures from the Colorado Department of Revenue|
2. Marijuana talk has dwindled down
During the beginning of 2014, marijuana talk was everywhere. On television, social media, and in print news, you’d find marijuana discussion. People wanted to know answers to questions like: “Is crime going up or down in Colorado?,” “Is legalization working out?” and “Will other states (and inevitably the nation) follow suit and legalize?”
You may notice how these discussions have died down. There are fewer people talking about it, as people have gotten a bit more “used to” the whole idea of legalization. Will marijuana eventually become just another controversial topic that primarily surfaces in political debates and when something “newsworthy” happens, like with alcohol, abortion, or gambling?
3. People are fighting against legalization
Over the past few weeks, marijuana businesses — both recreational and medical — have had to fight against a system that’s not really designed to cater to their success. In fact, it’s actually designed to deter it. In Denver, one medical marijuana dispensary (Allgreens LLC) is having trouble with an IRS policy, which says the company must have its payroll taxes withheld electronically. The problem, however, is that banks will not give the business a bank account because of the nature of its operations. So, this is quite a conundrum for the business, which will have to pay a penalty if it does not comply with the IRS policy. The Denver Post reports:
An Internal Revenue Service appeals officer told Allgreens LLC that not being able to get a bank account is no excuse for not paying employee withholding taxes electronically, as required by federal tax law. The dispensary has tried to get a bank account for at least two years…[the] IRS hearing officer ruled in denying the dispensary’s request to waive the 10 percent penalty.
Tax policies are not the only troubles marijuana businesses are facing, though. Just recently, two Federal lawsuits were filed in efforts to “end” recreational marijuana sales in Colorado. According to the Cannibist:
In one lawsuit, plaintiffs Hope and Michael Reilly claim the construction of Rocky Mountain Organics’ recreational marijuana cultivation facility at 6480 Pickney Road in Rye “interferes” with their views and plans to build a home and work space on their 105 acres of Pueblo County land…In the other lawsuit, the owner of the Holiday Inn in Frisco claims its business is already suffering because of a recreational marijuana shop they say is planning on opening 75 yards from the hotel’s front door.
The suits claim that marijuana facilities have a negative impact on them and their business operations. The Holiday Inn owner asserts that many of the hotel’s guests are children and families, who will avoid booking a stay at a hotel near a marijuana facility.
Will the fire reignite?
As we find out more and more about the impacts of legalization, and as more states choose to legalize (or not to legalize), we may see small bursts of excitement or interest in marijuana. But, the frenzy that came along with the initial shock is more than likely over, and will not return unless we see the day that nationwide legalization occurs.