After Colorado made history by joining Washington as the only two states to legalize recreational marijuana, we raised eyebrows and became the butt of many late night talk show jokes.
But as the Hickenlooper administration released new budget estimates that were nearly double of what was expected for recreational marijuana revenue, the joke may be on everyone else.
When the governor’s office announced that they expect over $100 million more than previously estimated, it caught attention of lawmakers in Colorado and will most certainly attract attention of lawmakers across the country.
Estimates are just that, only guesses. However, economists don’t merely take a random stab at ideas like this. A lot of statistics and numbers go into these estimates. And since many elected leaders will base future budget expenditures, read campaign promises, on these estimates, much effort goes into making them accurate.
Hickenlooper announced his plans for how to spend the extra money, with the vast majority of it going to preventing marijuana use by youth and substance abuse treatment.
While those priorities are in line with Hickenlooper’s stated priorities about protecting youth from pot, it’s not hard to imagine that those priorities may wiggle once the budget gets to the legislature.
$100 million of unexpected revenue is a very tempting number to put in front of elected officials who have been dealing with shrinking revenues and difficult budgets cuts for several years.
The $100 million figure is also bound to speed up legalization campaigns in other states that have been closely watching Colorado.
I expect that some states thought that legalizing pot would mean Colorado would be taken over by Cheech and Chong wannabes and that Cheetos would be named the official state snack.
But not only has the Centennial State not become home to hordes of Jeff Spicoli lookalikes, but now that we are raking in far more revenue than expected, former foes of pot in other states may change their tunes, and rather quickly.
$100 million could significantly change the budgets for many states. It could mean a change that could keep certain parties in power, or propel new majorities. It’s the kind of number that makes a serious difference.
And while $100 million is somewhat random because it deals with Colorado estimates and our particular situation, that really shouldn’t matter. It’s not the exact number that is the issue. It’s the fact that our state economists were so wrong in the beginning and had to increase those estimates by so much.
To put this into simple terms, when governments release numbers like this, it’s like the announcement of gold being discovered in Rockies for the first time.
But instead of miners rushing to Leadville, lawmakers will be rushing to grow their own gold mines in their own states. And do not be shocked if some national lawmakers begin to take notice soon as well. Money has a way of attracting a lot of attention.
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About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.