Denver Mayor Admits City Is Regulating Marijuana Effectively

Despite his initial campaign against marijuana legalization, the mayor of Denver now says that recreational cannabis has improved the city.
Denver Mayor Admits City Is Regulating Marijuana Effectively
Mykhailo Pavlenko/ Shutterstock

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced Thursday that the city is effectively regulating the legal marijuana industry. In 2012, Hancock had campaigned against the legalization of recreational cannabis in Colorado.

After city officials released an annual report on the city’s marijuana industry, Hancock said in a press release that legalization has been successful in Denver.

“This new report demonstrates Denver’s coordinated approach between multiple agencies to manage marijuana is working,” said Hancock. “We took on the daunting challenge of becoming the first major city in America to manage legalized recreational marijuana and we are having success.”

The mayor credited coordination between Denver’s Excise and Licenses, Denver’s Fire Department, Police Department, Department of Public Health and Environment, Community Planning and Development, partners in other city agencies, the marijuana industry community, and public health advocates for the success.

Sales and Tax Revenue Up, Crime Down

The city’s 2018 Annual Marijuana Report for the period of January 2017 to January 2018 shows an increase in both cannabis sales and tax revenue generated by the industry. Retail sales of recreational pot grew 29 percent from 2016, while sales of medical marijuana dipped 3 percent.

The number of cannabis industry business licenses in Denver now stands at more than 1,100, with those entities operating in close to 500 locations in the city. The report also mentions that the first establishment in Denver to offer on-site consumption was licensed by the city in 2018.

The report notes that as more cities welcome a legalized cannabis industry, the portion of Colorado’s marijuana sales generated by Denver businesses is shrinking. In 2014, Denver businesses were responsible for 48.3 percent of Colorado’s pot sales. That figure dropped to 38.7 percent for 2017.

Revenues from cannabis taxes and licensing fees rose 20 percent in 2017 over the previous year. The city projects an additional eight percent increase in revenue this year. Cannabis tax revenue made up 3.4 percent of Denver’s general fund in 2017, up from 3.02 percent in 2016.

As cannabis sales and tax revenues rose, crime associated with marijuana and the cannabis industry has dropped. Crime related to marijuana in 2017 accounted for just 0.3 percent of all crime in the city, down from 0.42 in 2016. Crime related to the cannabis industry was only 0.21 percent of all crime, compared to 0.32 percent in 2016.

Cannabis Taxes Funding Social Programs

The city’s report also included some of the benefits that Denver is realizing from taxes generated by the cannabis industry. From 2014 through 2018 more than $11 million of marijuana revenue will be granted by Denver’s Offices of Children’s Affairs and Behavioral Health for distribution to youth-serving organizations. Additional funds have been allocated for Denver’s “High Costs” youth prevention campaign.

In 2018, Denver appropriated $12.4 million from marijuana-related revenue to add investments for deferred maintenance, affordable housing, and opioid intervention. The city budgeted $8.8 million in expenditures across city departments and agencies for regulation, enforcement, and education related to cannabis.

2017 was the fourth year of legal recreational cannabis sales in Denver, which began in 2014. Despite opposition from Hancock and others, Colorado voters legalized recreational use and sales of cannabis in the state with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012.

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