The Real Cost of Legalized Recreational Marijuana

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

Pro-recreational legalization advocates talk about economic benefits from taxation and reducing incarceration from legalized pot. What they are not telling the public (or legislators) is the truth. The real cost far exceeds the benefits.

The Centennial Institute crunched the numbers and here is what they found:

  • For every dollar gained in tax revenue, Coloradans spent approximately $4.50 to mitigate the effects of legalization

  • Costs related to the healthcare system and from high school drop-outs are the largest cost contributors

  • While people who attended college and use marijuana has grown since legalization, marijuana use remains more prevalent in the population with less education

  • Research shows a connection between marijuana use and the use of alcohol and other substances

  • Calls to Poison Control related to marijuana increased dramatically since legalization of medical marijuana and legalization of recreational marijuana

  • People who use marijuana more frequently tend to be less physically active, and a sedentary or inactive lifestyle is associated with increased medical costs

  • Adult marijuana users generally have lower educational attainment than non-users

  • Research does suggest that long-term marijuana use may lead to reduced cognitive ability, particularly in people who begin using it before they turn 18

  • Yearly cost-estimates for marijuana users: $2,200 for heavy users, $1,250 for moderate users, $650 for light users

  • 69% of marijuana users say they have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once, and 27% admit to driving under the influence on a daily basis

  • The estimated costs of DUIs for people who tested positive for marijuana only in 2016 approaches $25 million

  • The marijuana industry used enough electricity to power 32,355 homes in 2016

  • In 2016, the marijuana industry was responsible for approximately 393,053 pounds of CO2 emissions

  • Marijuana packaging yielded over 18.78 million pieces of plastic


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Paid for by the Coalition for Medical Cannabis. Not paid for or authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.