Update: We just heard back via e-mail from the study's author, Christopher Stiffler. Below are our questions followed by his written responses:
I just wanted to confirm that the MMJ study recently released was paid for by the Drug Policy Alliance.
"The Drug Policy Alliance contracted with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy for this particular analysis. It is important to note, however, that the analysis contained in the report represents independent analysis by CCLP staff. Part of our work here at CCLP is to provide independent, accurate economic and fiscal analysis on public policy discussions so that decision makers, whether they are legislators or voters, are able to make informed choices about the future of Colorado."
Also, can you speak to why your estimates are so much larger than what the Blue Book states, economically?
"First, I want to stress that we have tremendous respect for the work of the staff of the Colorado Legislative Council. The reason why our report differs from the Blue Book analysis is that I considered additional factors than those considered by Legislative Council staff.
"My analysis calculates state sales tax, local sales tax, excise tax, and savings to law enforcement. The Blue Book only provides an estimate of state sales tax. So the most accurate comparison is the estimate for state sales tax revenue. Our report estimates $8.7 million in state sales tax revenue. The Blue Book’s provides a range of $4 million to $22 million."
Lastly, Roger Sherman with No on 64 told Westword the report didn't take into account the added cost of drug treatment for schools — do you think that would be a significant amount?
"CCLP’s analysis focused on the state budgetary impacts of Amendment 64. The report focused much less on the indirect consequences. On page 6 of our study we reference some outside analysis dealing with consumption among teens. The Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Report suggest that regulating marijuana has a negative correlation with teen consumption, meaning regulation could be a factor in reducing marijuana use among teens. Nationwide marijuana use for high school students rose from 20.8 percent in 2009 to 23.1 percent in 2011 while it dropped from 24.8 percent to 22 percent in Colorado. During this period, Colorado enacted regulations on the sale of medical marijuana."
——— ORIGINAL POST: Friday, Aug. 17, 4:24 P.M. ———
Much like the subject of gay marriage, any time there's a potential change in policy toward marijuana, there's a study somewhere saying how much money the state's missing out on if it doesn't act. Now, we have ours: The Colorado Center on Law and Policy says in a new study that the passage of Amendment 64 (backed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol) could generate $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue, and that that amount could double within the first five years after implementation.
According to the report, passage of Amendment 64 will:
• Initially result in $60 million annually in combined revenue and savings for state and local governments in Colorado, which could double to more than $100 million within the first five years of implementation.
• Save local and state law enforcement officials more than $12 million in the first year of operation.
• Generate $24 million annually in state revenue for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction program.
• Create more than 350 new jobs, the majority of which will be in the construction industry.
"Generating millions of dollars, creating new jobs, and benefiting our schools are not the only reasons to support regulating marijuana like alcohol," reads a statement from Betty Aldworth with CTRMLA. "It will also enhance public safety by removing marijuana from the underground market, which is currently steering all of the profits toward drug cartels and other criminal enterprises."
Of course, the competition's less impressed, says No on 64's Roger Sherman to Westword:
"It's not a surprise that a report paid for by an out-of-state, pro-legalization organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, overstates the impact of legalizing marijuana for recreational use," he maintains. "This report triples the estimate from the state's unbiased, non-partisan Office of Legislative Council in the Blue Book."
We've e-mailed the report's author, economist Christopher Stiffler, to confirm the connection with DPA — a New York City-based nonprofit with a Denver office, that focuses on "promoting alternatives to current drug policy that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights" — as well as answer some follow-up questions. We'll update when we hear back.