Will the booming taxes being collected in Colorado from marijuana be enough to turn the heads of Texas lawmakers in favor of legalization, or at least lessening the penalties on pot and allowing for taxation?
Retail marijuana sales in Colorado brought in $1.4 million in January, and that number jumped to nearly $1.9 million in March, as the popularity of legal marijuana makes using the drug more legitimate for more people.
Colorado analysts say the message is simple--the January taxes weren't just from faddists who ran out to buy pot as a 'new toy.' Legal marijuana use is taking effect across the Centennial State, and Cheyanne Weldon of the Texas Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws says Texas politicians can't help but take notice.
"The way we can control it is through a regulated market," Weldon said of failed efforts to reduce the use of marijuana by law enforcement. "We can capitalize not only on marijuana taxes themselves, but on the new industries, and the jobs."
The Colorado Legislature has already found uses for the windfall, spending marijuana tax money on schools, school nurses, and even to boost local Colorado police departments. Weldon says every dollar collected by willing marijuana buyers is one less dollar that has to be extracted from hard pressed working people.
But Weldon says in Texas, the 'tough on crime' stance which so many politicians use extends to being tough on drugs, even on marijuana.
"We still have a lot of fears to dispels, and I think letting representatives to talk about the money will help do that," Weldon said.
Democrat Kinky Friedman is running for Agriculture Commissioner on a platform of legalizing marijuana in Texas, and his campaign is seen as a good indicator of whether Texas is ready for looser rules governing marijuana use.