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Denver Mayor Who Opposed Legal Marijuana Now Celebrates It

The Mile High City has seen record sales and low crime. What's not to like?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Money really does change things -- including minds. The latest example comes from the city of Denver, where Mayor Michael B. Hancock, who once opposed marijuana legalization, is now singing its praises.

Helen H. Richardson | Getty Images

Before Colorado voters approved the recreational use of cannabis in 2012, Hancock called the plant a gateway drug and said legalization sent the wrong message to children.

These days he calls the legal marijuana system in his city a success. He even appeared on radio in Massachusetts this summer, talking about the positives of marijuana legalization to calm the nerves of Massachusetts officials who, like him, also opposed legalization.

On Boston Herald Radio, Hancock admitted that “the sky hasn't fallen like I thought it would. If you regulate it properly, enforce the laws around it, and you set up your government to help work collaboratively with the industry, good things will happen."

While he didn't specifically mention the city's record profits and a huge tax haul from legalized marijuana, what else could he have meant by “good things?"

Related: Michigan Is Unlikely to Have Nearly Enough Medical Marijuana Dispensaries for Its Huge Market

Sales Are Snowballing

While some projected that Colorado’s cannabis sales numbers might eventually plateau, that has not happened yet -- at least not in Denver. Numbers released this month show legal, recreational marijuana sales were 29 percent higher in 2017 than in 2016.

Total marijuana sales in Denver reached $587 million. Of that, $377.5 million came from recreational marijuana sales.

Sales have snowballed since they began in 2014, increasing each year. That’s also held true for marijuana taxes pouring into city coffers.

Tax revenue increased by 20 percent in 2017. What’s more, projections call for at least an 8 percent jump in 2018.

Related: The Cannabis Industry Is Going Global Without Waiting for America to Legalize

Crime a Non-Issue

The city also reported that marijuana-related crime accounted for less than 1 percent of all crime in the city. And crime related to the marijuana industry itself accounted for less than half a percent of all crime in the city.

The city is putting the money to effective use, as well. Since 2014, about $11 million has gone to organizations that serve kids via Denver’s Offices of Children’s Affairs and Behavioral Health.

This year, the city has put $12.4 million into areas such as affordable housing and opioid intervention. And almost $9 million has gone to regulation, education, and law enforcement.

All this has made Mayor Hancock a believer, now. He said coordination between various city departments has helped make things run smoothly. In the city report, Hancock stated the latest numbers show, “Denver’s coordinated approach between multiple agencies to manage marijuana is working.”

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