Colorado and Washington are among the few U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana in recent years, and they’ve already brought in a combined $200 million in tax revenue from the drug.


Since Colorado legalized marijuana in early 2014, the state has made about $117 million in excise taxes from the sale of pot. The drug was made legal in Washington in July of last year, and already it’s gathered $83 million from taxes. With all of this tax money coming in from recreational marijuana in a short period of time, how is it being spent?


“Every dime we bring in from legalization is dedicated to the cost of legalization. That’s regulatory framework first, then public education campaigns about safe and responsible use and then prevention and treatment programs,” said J. Skyler McKinley, the deputy director of the Office of Marijuana Coordination in Colorado.     


People line up to buy recreational marijuana

People line up to buy recreational marijuana outside of LoDo Wellness Center in Denver, CO. (

Now that these states are showing how much money recreational marijuana can bring in, other states are starting to take notice. In August, Ohio approved a bid that will put recreational marijuana legalization to a vote this November. Five other states are currently playing with the idea of putting the drug’s legalization up for vote, but this wouldn’t occur until the 2016 presidential election.


Some states may see this as a money making opportunity, but McKinley says that revenue shouldn’t be the motivation behind marijuana legalization. McKinley has recently warned other states not to legalize the drug for financial gain, but rather to create a “regulated marketplace” that would promote a safer drug trade.    


Like Colorado, Washington spends its marijuana tax revenue on drug prevention education and marijuana research. If other states pass legalization in the coming years, they will have to decide if they too will follow Colorado’s lead. Over 50 percent of voters in Ohio have shown their support for legalization, so they are likely to be the next state that will have to make this decision.         


Will more states push for legalization of recreational use? How should states allocate the revenue they receive from marijuana sales tax? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.