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Colorado’s Marijuana Legalization Drawing Immigrants And Tourists


colorado legalizes marijuanaWhen marijuana reformers push for the legalization of herb, we often point out the direct fiscal benefits, like the tax money that can be raised, the law enforcement money that can be saved, and the jobs created in the marijuana industry.  Now we are beginning to see the indicators of the indirect fiscal benefit from legalization.

We heard reports of the $2.1 million raised in recreational marijuana taxes from $14 million worth of product sold in January.  Now the Denver Post reports that the tax revenue may be so far above expectations they may have to give some of it back.  Colorado’s TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) mandates that excess tax collections must be refunded to the people

Colorado’s universities are reporting a spike in enrollment, with University of Colorado seeing a 30% increase in applications and Denver University experiencing an 81% increase over five years.  This is happening as the National Student Clearinghouse reports a nationwide drop in college enrollments over the past two years.

College “Spring Breakers” are now flocking to Colorado.  According to an analysis by Priceline.com, Denver trails only Las Vegas and New Orleans in being booked for Spring Break by people with .edu (college) email addresses.  Denver is more popular than traditional Spring Break locales Fort Lauderdale, Florida; South Padre Island, Texas; and Cancun, Mexico.

Colorado pot shops still report that about half of the IDs they check are from out-of-state, despite the lack of most anywhere for a tourist to smoke pot legally.  Public consumption is banned and almost all hotels are non-smoking.  But Rich Grant, spokesman for Denver’s visitor and convention bureau, says he’s heard of hotel guests asking about the fine for smoking in a non-smoking room, then paying the $250 up front.

Then there are the upwards of 300 families who have moved or are moving to Colorado to access lifesaving CBD oil for their epileptic children.  They are probably a fraction of the people who have emigrated to Colorado, many of whom are patients with PTSD and other conditions not covered by most states’ medical laws (including Colorado’s), but who can access legal marijuana.

Despite all these obvious indicators of legalization immigration and toker tourism, Grant still says “we’ll probably never really be able to tell” whether marijuana’s legality is attracting all these out-of-towners, like Doug Drumm of Syracuse, New York, who told Denver’s Fox 31, that prior to legalization, “We would never have stopped in Denver. We wouldn’t have stopped here to eat, we wouldn’t have stopped here for anything.”

Grant says the forthcoming HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in Denver on 4/20 may provide definitive proof of the power of pot to draw tourists.  April 20th is also Easter Sunday, typically a very slow day for hotels.  “If downtown is sold out on Easter Sunday,” Grant said, “you would have to say something was going on.”

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. cant wait to move to co!! i’m just waiting for my current lease to end or untill i get evicted, which ever comes first lol. kansas sucks ass, but there a lot of hot chicks here for some odd reason.

  2. I don’t think it’s greed. I think it’s the attitude and lifestyle of Californians. I’m from Oakland but have lived here in Denver for over 20 years and the people are different here than they are in California. We are laid back here in Denver and people from Cali bring a lot of baggage with their mindsets and attitudes. We are friendly…not rude and self centered. Their lifestyle doesn’t fit the laid back life we’ve come to enjoy.

  3. Uncle Arthur on

    Don’t rest on you laurels, That was 1996, this is now 2014! There’s still a lot of work to be done in California.

  4. Reading all the comments and think maybe some more research needs to be done on Marijuana. Example: Coloradans don’t like Californians and we don’t want their businesses. What ever happened to pass that joint and let’s be friendly attitude? Sounds more like greed talk and thinking, that will destroy a good thing quick.

  5. And we still have dry counties and blue laws in the southern states and it does absolutely nothing to stop alcohol-tobacco use and abuse but it sure does move the revenue to the neighboring ones. I agree with allowing states and counties the right to choose but it does not change a thing and is symbolic at best in the long run. At worst it continues the destruction of otherwise law-abiding citizens lives because of some moral byproduct of banal hypocrites. The use of cannabis, by a huge percentage, is by law abiding hard working adults and the “justice” system does more harm than the usage ever will.
    I would hope you are on this site because you believe in freedom and the pursuit of happiness by the individual. Its too bad that so many people cannot understand that freedom means allowing someone else to do something that they themselves may disapprove of or not enjoy. The restriction of those freedoms may eventually come around to prohibiting something you may enjoy in the future. Its a slippery slope.

  6. @Melekalikimaka2:disqus

    You can get pissed off if you like but it’s not going to change the fact people from Colorado don’t like people from California. We can usually tell by how someone talks or how they look. (Kinda like how you can tell someone is a tourist by the way they act) As for the lawsuites I wish them good luck. Besides Douglas county, it is illegal to possess or sell marijuana in Pierce County, El Paso County, Aurora county (They are actually on the fence about it and are still voting on it), Adams county, and Lone tree to name a few. It was highly discussed before legalization what towns/ counties would allow pot use and sales and which ones would not. I’m just glad there is a 25% tax on pot.

  7. Doesn’t entitle them to tell every other state how to get it done. That conversation always devolves into “Well, the people in your state should start thinking more like the people in California do anyway, so they’ll want to do it our way, nyah nyah nyah” which simply isn’t helpful. That’s not a workable solution unless you have a magic wand.

    Cultural change takes time a lot of patients don’t have, which is why most practical approaches involve the reforms fitting to the state, and not the state fitting to the reforms. Although I will admit, in the last four months, Georgia has been evolving on the issue of medical cannabis in leaps and bounds. We went from 42% of Republicans supporting medical cannabis to 66% supporting it in that time, thanks to all the press garnered by the crappy CBD oil bill that didn’t even pass. Yet another difference between my state and CA — in my state, nothing gets done unless a majority of R’s want it done. Democrats are barely acknowledged, no matter how purple this state gets. I don’t like it, but I also don’t pretend that’s not how it is.

    No, the CBD oil bill didn’t pass, but at least I had the pleasure of watching Sue Rusche, one of the biggest drug warriors since the 1970s, get her proverbial lunch handed to her during one of the hearings. You see, she pioneered the “what about the children?” arguments against cannabis decriminalization, back then. At the hearing, she had her own strategy used against her! Sue was absolutely grilled by CONSERVATIVE legislators for not supporting the bill and thus, not wanting to help children with intractable epilepsy. It was glorious. Sometimes it seems that, when it comes to cannabis, the universe has a very ironic sense of humor.

  8. Ya, I had some choice words for someone the other day who was insisting that I should get on my knees and thank California for ALL progress in regards to cannabis law reform, across the nation.

    Fact is, the “California approach” of allowing medical cannabis to obstreperously run rampant like it has on the west coast would not work anywhere else in the nation *except* the west coast. Half-naked women aren’t employed to sell medicine, and very few 20-somethings legitimately have bad backs if they don’t lay bricks for a living.

    California’s “wink-wink” pseudo-legalization is the reason people who live in states that aren’t nearly as progressive conflate medical and recreational use so readily. That mistaken, preconceived notion has prevented *ANY* type of real conversation from starting in any state with a conservative slant.

    You know what people in the South used to say whenever you even suggested legalizing medical cannabis? They always, always said “We don’t want to end up like California.” That’s why states like Georgia, Utah, Alabama, etc. have experienced a rash of “zero cultivation, CBD oil only” legislation. Conservative states are so emphatically determined to do everything they can to AVOID turning out like California, that they’re crafting legislation that’s completely neutered and unworkable (no chance of helping anyone at all).

  9. Melekalikimaka on

    Also, do “Californians” wear a sticker or something so that you can easily identify them? I didn’t know they handed out t-shirts at the border so that we could know which tourists and visitors to hate. Douglas county will wish they had retail cannabis, to raise all the money they will need to fight the lawsuits for all the unconstitutional arrests.

  10. Melekalikimaka on

    You don’t want employment opportunities and more taxpayers in Colorado? Good thing you’re not involved in state politics, with your attitude you should move to Arizona where they fight to keep every business from coming there. They are also broke, steal money from education and roads to pay for administration and ignore the will of the people.

  11. Enrik Vonhasselback on

    Then you need to become involved and encourage everyone you know to do the same to ensure the Pelosi and Feinstein voter base does not gain to much authority.
    I find the idea that “most local businesses….have a strong resentment toward pot users.” is a little off base. Most voters liked the idea of removing the stigma associated with cannabis or it would not have been ‘legalized’. Most businesses enjoy the influx of tourist dollars and the potential for reduced taxation due to cannabis revenue so the hypocrisy of hating users is ridicules. There are prohibitionists everywhere and they are a growing minority. The current interest in Colorado will drop off as more states enact common sense legislation and then your Douglas county can return back to its ‘taint’ status.

  12. Brief research shows that while between 2013-2014 US house prices have dropped in Denver house prices have taken an 8% bump.

  13. God I hope those companies don’t come here. Last thing I want is Colorado to become California 2.0.

    Most local businesses around here hate Californians and have a strong resentment towards pot users. (If you try to go anywhere in Douglas county with pot, you will instantly be arrested and charged under federal law for it)

  14. If other states *DO* end up dragging their feet with legalization and no federal progress is made, expect industries to relocate to CO simply to avoid losing their best people. Something you should know about Microsoft, Apple, Google, and every other hardware/software mogul company you’ve ever heard of with offices across California and in Seattle — they don’t drug test their skilled workforce FOR A REASON.

    The on-the-sly secret of Silicon Valley? A lot of their young engineers and professionals have bad backs the same way Bill Maher has a bad back. It’s a little secret I learned in grad school. Don’t tell anybody. ;-)

    Expect almost every industry in Colorado to experience a steady rise in applications for nationally advertised job positions (provided they’re not Dish Network, or any other “zero tolerance” dinosaur company). That’s actually an important tip for potential Colorado immigrants: Do not accept a job and move to Colorado unless you are certain your new job will not fire you for failing a urine test.

    Expect industries to notice the talent vacuum and to also speculate on moving to Colorado. I’m not saying all the smartest and most talented people think cannabis prohibition is silly and consider cannabis a better alternative to alcohol — I’m just saying MOST of them do.

  15. I assume that our hoteliers won’t be so myopic when we open up for business here in Seattle this summer – indeed, the smart ones will ADVERTISE: Smoking Rooms Available!

  16. I hope CO makes so much money that it is literally offering to give some away to other states.

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