Colorado's Cannabis Industry Going Up in Smoke: It's Not Looking Good for America's First 'Legal Weed' Experiment


CORRECTION, June 11, 2024: The recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Texas. An earlier version of this article said otherwise.

Liberals and libertarians alike were sure that marijuana legalization would be a boon for the American people.

They said it would save economies, remedy people and completely revitalize states that embraced it.

Well, now that the honeymoon period is over, it appears that there have been some trade-offs, namely shuttered businesses, unemployed people and public areas that constantly reek of weed.

A Sunday report from Politico revealed exactly how disappointing the Colorado cannabis market has been in the state just ten years since recreational use of the drug first became legal in the U.S.

According to the outlet, the once-touted budding industry is now “a trail of failed businesses and cash-strapped entrepreneurs.”

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In 2020, the market generated a staggering $2.2 billion.

As of 2023, sales dipped to $1.5 billion, resulting in layoffs and the aforementioned shuttering of businesses.

Colorado tax revenues from cannabis products, once touted as a major benefit to be gained from legalizing weed, have dipped 30 percent in the past two years as well, per Politico.

Politico partly blames competition for the sharp economic decline.

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Though many weed users from nearby states once went out of their way to acquire Colorado cannabis, since states like New Mexico and Arizona legalized the drug as well, they no longer needed to make the long trip.

The supposed economic boom touted by liberal and libertarian weed-lovers had been artificially propped up by Colorado’s early adoption of the product, which essentially created a pseudo-state monopoly.

But those days are long gone, and with them, the many economic benefits once thought to be simply the beginning of greater gains to come.

Of course, Politico places much of the blame at the feet of the federal government which still classifies the drug as illegal.

If federally legalized, many regulations would be reduced or eliminated, leading to greater profitability for the market.

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But the economic decline isn’t the only bad news to come out of the Colorado weed market in recent years.

Another persistent marijuana-produced problem faced by Coloradans has been the unavoidable stench.

According to reports from the Denver Westword and KDVR (Fox’s local Denver affiliate) in 2023 and 2022 respectively, the drug’s smell has caused some real problems for locals.

The Westword reports that the local Denver government adopted various regulations in 2017 to help combat the smell caused by the drug to no avail.

According to KDVR, those laws included various zoning restrictions to limit the number of weed cultivation facilities per neighborhood.

Nevertheless, the 96 locations along Interstate 70 have created a “potent smell” for all drivers who happen to pass a certain stretch of the highway.

“The cannabis industry has provided thousands of jobs for Denver and is a key economic and tax revenue contributor to our community,” said Molly Duplechian, executive director of the Department of Excise and Licenses.

She added: “However, we remain determined to protect neighborhoods from undue concentration, so the history and cultural identity of our neighborhoods are protected, and youth exposure is limited.”

As those jobs and financial benefits diminish, the number of excuses Dupechian and others have for not taking more definitive action lessens by the minute.

Even if they don’t, greater tax revenues for the government isn’t a great selling point for voters who know that very same government isn’t willing to keep their neighborhoods from smelling like a pothead’s apartment.

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Michael wrote for a number of entertainment news outlets before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter. He now manages the writing and reporting teams, overseeing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Michael Austin graduated from Iowa State University in 2019. During his time in college, Michael volunteered as a social media influencer for both PragerU and Live Action. After graduation, he went on to work as a freelance journalist for various entertainment news sites before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter.

Since then, Michael has been promoted to the role of Manager of Writing and Reporting. His responsibilities now include managing and directing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University
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