Celebrating 10 Years of Legal Cannabis in Colorado: A Milestone of Progress and Innovation

Ten years ago, on January 1, 2014, Colorado embarked on a groundbreaking journey by becoming the first state in the United States to legalize recreational cannabis. Colorado Harvest Company was one of them! (At the time that location was called Evergreen Apothecary)

What began as a bold experiment has evolved into a thriving industry, reshaping the state’s economy, culture, and social landscape. As we commemorate this milestone, it’s essential to reflect on the achievements, challenges, and lessons learned from a decade of legal cannabis in Colorado.

Legal Cannabis Colorado

Economic Impact

Legalizing cannabis has proven to be a boon for Colorado’s economy. The state has seen a significant influx of revenue from taxes and fees associated with cannabis sales.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, in 2023 alone, cannabis sales surpassed $1.3 billion, generating $274,121,043 million in tax revenue.

The 15% retail marijuana excise tax in Colorado is designated for public school construction. This tax is collected by retail marijuana cultivation facilities upon the initial sale or transfer of retail marijuana to any retail marijuana store or manufacturer of marijuana products.

The first $40 million in annual revenue from this excise tax is earmarked for public school construction projects. Any revenue exceeding this amount is then directed to the Public School Fund.

Job Creation

The cannabis industry has emerged as a major employer in Colorado, creating thousands of jobs across the state. From cultivation and manufacturing to retail and distribution, opportunities abound for individuals seeking employment in this burgeoning sector.

Additionally, ancillary businesses such as marketing agencies, legal firms, and consulting services have flourished, further contributing to job growth and economic prosperity.

As of June 2020, the number of individuals licensed to work directly within Colorado’s cannabis industry stood at 41,144. A study conducted by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics in March 2018 highlighted that marijuana legalization contributed to a notable 3.2% increase in Colorado’s population in 2015


Legal cannabis has transformed Colorado into a destination for cannabis tourism, attracting visitors from around the world. Tourists flock to the state to explore dispensaries, attend cannabis-themed events, and experience cannabis-friendly accommodations.

This influx of tourism dollars has bolstered the hospitality industry and provided a significant boost to local businesses.

For more than a year, the Colorado Tourism Office has been discreetly exploring new avenues, now incorporating cannabis-related content into its promotional materials.

Despite the legalization of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado for over a decade, the CTO had been hesitant to recognize the potential of cannabis in drawing visitors.  However, now you can find cannabis businesses listed on their website.

Regulatory Framework

Colorado’s regulatory framework for cannabis has served as a model for other states considering legalization. The state has implemented strict regulations to ensure product safety, prevent underage consumption, and minimize the illicit market.

Licensing requirements, testing standards, and compliance measures have helped establish a well-regulated industry that prioritizes public health and safety.

The PREPARE Act, short for Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment Act, is a legislative proposal aimed at guiding the federal regulation of cannabis.

Under this bill, the Attorney General is tasked with developing a comprehensive framework for federal oversight of cannabis. Despite the current federal prohibition on cannabis, many states have adopted regulated systems akin to Colorado’s, which prioritize safety and legality.

The PREPARE Act seeks to leverage Colorado’s successful regulatory model by establishing a federal commission, mirroring Colorado’s regulatory body, to provide guidance to the government on the implementation of federal cannabis legalization.

Governor Hickenlooper remarked, “Colorado has set the standard for a secure and well-regulated marijuana market. Let’s capitalize on this success by implementing federal regulations that build upon our state’s model.”

Innovation and Research

The legalization of cannabis has fostered a culture of innovation and research in Colorado. The state is home to world-class research institutions and laboratories conducting groundbreaking studies on the therapeutic potential of cannabis and its compounds.

From pain management to epilepsy treatment, researchers are exploring the diverse applications of cannabis in medicine and healthcare.

What’s next?

The 10-year anniversary of legal cannabis in Colorado is a testament to the power of vision, perseverance, and collaboration. From humble beginnings to a thriving industry, the journey has been marked by milestones, challenges, and opportunities for growth.

As we reflect on the past decade and look to the future, let us celebrate the progress made, learn from our experiences, and continue working towards a more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive cannabis landscape for generations to come.