Marijuana in Montreal: Colorado representative talks legalization

Some American states have already legalized marijuana and it could soon be Canada's turn. One Colorado state representative says the move has provided the state with a "new cash source to fund our schools."

Colorado state representative Jonathan Singer says tax revenue helps fund schools

State Representative Jonathan Singer speaks at a pro-legalization rally in Denver. The state of Colorado had its first legal sale of marijuana in January 2014. (David Zalubowski/The Associated Press)

Some American states have already legalized marijuana and it could soon be Canada's turn.

Cannabis sales for recreational purposes were made legal in Colorado in January 2014. In Canada, the new Liberal government is promising it within the next two years.

For the second part of CBC Daybreak's Montreal 420 series, we spoke to Jonathan Singer, who represents House District 11 in the Colorado state legislature.

Here are key excerpts of that interview with Singer:

On how legalization works

Edible marijuana products are pictured on display at a medical marijuana dispensary in Denver. (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)

We've decriminalized it so people who possess an ounce or less of recreational marijuana aren't going to go to jail if you're over 21.

At the same time we allow both a state and local licensure so that means in my own hometown up here in Longmont, Colorado, the city council has decided to ban marijuana sales. That's legal to ban sales. You can't ban possessions but you can ban sales.

Other large cities like Denver have decided to go the opposite route and they have decided to legalize dispensaries.

On how Colorado has changed

Marijuana sales are taxed at nearly 24 per cent per purchase. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

You know, the good news is our economy is booming. Our economy has gone from 40th in job creation to fourth in job creation over the last few years.

In addition to that, we have seen record numbers of tourists. In addition to that, we have seen crime stay about the same or even some crimes even decline in the state of Colorado. And we also have a new cash source to fund our schools, so it has certainly changed it in a lot of ways.

On who can legally sell marijuana

Professional extractor Jeremy Johnson removes a sheet of THC concentrate known as shatter from the oven at Mahatma Concentrates in Denver on May 1, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Colorado has always been a local control, free-market state and because of that all of these are privately owned by private individuals who go through very strict background checks to make sure that they don't have a serious criminal history.

Last but definitely not least these are people who have quite a bit of money in their pocket to be able to build these industries up because banking is still a huge issue because it is federally illegal in the United States.

On tax revenue from marijuana

Marijuana helps fund public schools and social programs says Singer. (CBC)

In a state of about five million people we've raised about $60 million from marijuana taxes. That's a special marijuana tax that's equivalent to about 22 to 24 per cent on a sale of marijuana.

Of those $60 million dollars, about $40 million has gone directly into building better public schools in Colorado. And the remainder of those dollars have gone into things like drug and alcohol prevention programs, counselling, before and after school programs and even better training for our police officers to detect things like driving under the influence of drugs.

On challenging illegal drug trade

A bag of marijuana sits next to a money jar at BotanaCare in Northglenn, Colorado. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

I think we have taken a huge bite out of the illegal drug trade in Colorado.

One of the unfortunate parts about this is because marijuana is still illegal in most of the rest of the United States, there is a huge economic pressure to take and purchase marijuana on the legal market here in Colorado and perhaps try and sell it in other states. Marijuana is considerably less expensive even on the taxed legal market in Colorado.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?