DENVER — This week marks 10 years since Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, clearing the way for marijuana legalization in the state and prompting more than a dozen other states to follow suit.
In the decade of legalization, Colorado reports $13.4 billion in legal marijuana sales, resulting in $2.2 billion in taxes collected.
"I think it’s just been an unqualified success," said Brian Vicente, one of the co-directors of the campaign to pass Amendment 64.
He and his co-director Mason Tvert said the amendment delivered on its goals.
"The win in Colorado really inspired a lot of discussion and got a lot of elected leaders both in the U.S. and abroad examining their cannabis policies," Tvert said.
In the years since 2012, when Colorado and Washington state passed legalization efforts, 17 other states and the District of Columbia have also approved recreational cannabis. Many used the same campaign and policy playbook debuted in Colorado, Tvert said.
"I feel like the Colorado model should be exported to other states and other countries and the world would be better off," Vicente said.
Tvert and Vicente faced a yearslong battle to convince voters to pass Amendment 64. They began working on the issue in the mid-2000s and saw a prior statewide ballot initiative fail at the polls.
"There was robust and stern opposition from almost every level of government against legalizing cannabis," Vicente said, but they credit political leaders for implementing the voters' will after Amendment 64 was approved.
They say legalization has paid off for Colorado. In addition to creating a new, legal industry, billions of tax dollars raised from marijuana sales have gone to public schools or to the state's marijuana fund -- which earmarks the money for use in health care, health education, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and law enforcement.
Vicente and Tvert continue to work on marijuana policy issues in Colorado and across the country. They said the more states that legalize the drug, the higher the pressure on the federal government to do the same.
"We’re still working on that, but it’s creating more and more pressure with every election cycle," Vicente said.
Five additional states will vote on marijuana measures on Tuesday -- part of the lasting impact of Colorado's vote 10 years ago.
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