Will Kentucky Follow Colorado’s Example?

On Jan 1. Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  In the first day alone, the small shops across the state made over one million dollars. These sales can only be expected to rise as production increases and prices drop. Colorado’s experiment is particularly interesting for the state of Kentucky. This states climate and soil is suited to the growing of marijuana, and our government is carefully watching the developments in Colorado. In 2003 alone over 500,000 marijuana plants were seized in Kentucky according to the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. With amount of potential tax revenue, Kentucky should be very interested. One of the largest factors in the marijuana debate is money.

In a report published by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), it was stated that Kentucky spent 19.5 million dollars on the enforcement of marijuana laws in 2010. This money funds the pursuit and arrest of all marijuana activity within the state. A study conducted by Dr. Charles B. Fields, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University, said there are between 19,000 and 22,000 marijuana related arrests per year in Kentucky. The same study states that over 90% of these arrests are for possession. The money associated with the justice system processing these offenders is not included in the previously mentioned 19.5 million dollars. This is a huge amount of state expenditure on the tax payer’s dime. Legalization in Kentucky is not only attractive because of the money it could save, but also for the money it could earn.

In 2003 alone over 500,000 marijuana plants were seized in Kentucky according to the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. If such a large industry were converted into a legal, tax paying one, the state of Kentucky could expect to earn millions of dollars a year. In Colorado the current tax on marijuana is 10 percent for simple purchase, and 15 percent for wholesale. With sales holding at around one million dollars per day, Colorado can expect to make between 100,000 and 150,000 dollars a day purely from their marijuana tax. This calculates to about 36.5 – 54.8 million dollars annually for the state of Colorado. These numbers could potentially be even larger in Kentucky. In a 2006 article by researcher Dr. Jon Gettman, Kentucky is shown to be the third largest marijuana manufacturing state behind Tennessee and California. With these numbers in mind, Kentucky will carefully watch the developments in Colorado to plan its future decisions towards the prohibition of marijuana.

As public support for marijuana grows, it is a matter of time before Kentucky has to address the issue at hand. The biggest factor in this decision will be money, whether it is money saved or money earned. Kentuckians will just have to wait and see our states decision on the issue. Most recently, the Kentucky Senate passed a bill to legalize the use of marijuana oil for medical purposes.