Colorado Confirms: Pot is Not a Revenue Panacea


On Tuesday, the House Judiciary will be hearing bill 5555, which would legalize, regulate and, of course, tax marijuana.

There are solid reasons why we as a state should go real slow here. Just last week, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity identified only the latest, albeit a very unwelcome one in view of Rhode Island’s already hideous business climate: legalized pot would present serious burdens and legal jeopardy to businesses in Rhode Island.

Nevertheless, state leaders and legislators who are otherwise ambivalent or even opposed to the legalization of marijuana, might be considering the dubious path of legalization because it would offer a new revenue stream to fix the state budget’s chronic deficits.

Take that off the table. From the Denver Post three weeks ago.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper estimates the revenue projections fall $700 million short of the amount needed to meet the priorities in his $28.5 billion budget proposal for next year, an increase from the $500 million gap he anticipated in November.

Michael Cerullo, Psychotherapist and substance abuse Adjunct Scholar with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, pointed out this critical item yesterday during the debate between himself and Jared Moffat, hosted by “PO Taxpayer” Pat Ford on WPRO. (Listen to the entire debate at the website of The Coalition.)

Colorado’s law legalizing pot went into effect in January, 2014. Many states, including Rhode Island, are watching the effects on Colorado, positive and negative, as a guide, at least in part, as they consider whether to emulate Colorado in this matter.

One of the biggest factors in this decision is the potential revenue that could flow into state coffers if cannabis is legalized and taxed. With Colorado’s revenue projections shrinking and its budget deficit widening, it is clear that the revenue that would come from marijuana is not the cure-all for state budget woes that has been touted. Rhode Island legislators and leaders need to take this important new and disturbing information carefully into account as they consider, during either this legislative session or a future one, whether to follow Colorado down this path.

  • Raymond Carter

    35 years ago as a 12 year old 7th grader in Western Cranston we could (and most of us occasionally did) get our hands on weed easier than a number 2 pencil. Give it up. Prohibition doesn’t work and is Big Stateism at its worst.

    • Justin Katz

      Sure prohibition hasn’t worked, but we are where we are, and we have to be smart about moving forward. I certainly wouldn’t call for ramping up enforcement of current laws, and I wonder if legalization (creating a huge government incentive to secure its monopoly in this market) wouldn’t lead to even more big government activity.

    • Mike678

      Many libertarians support such a path, leaving it to the individual to make choices and succeed or suffer the consequences. I’d be more inclined to support legalization if the politicians made it legal without putting their hands in the pot (no pun intended) and started reducing the size of our welfare state.