The supporters of legal marijuana sales in Colorado wasted no time proving the potential economic gains to the state.

Between the first day of legal marijuana sales, Jan. 1, and Jan. 8, Colorado has served thousands of people and accrued more than $5 million in taxed and regulated sales.

Despite concerns from some that the legalization of marijuana would bring an increase in crime, only four marijuana citations have been issued in Denver since sales began.

“We’ve written four citations for public consumption since January 1st, and that is relatively small considering the number of people consuming right now,” Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson told The Huffington Post.

Colorado residents 21 years or older are eligible to legally purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at a time. Out-of-state individuals can buy up to a half an ounce at a time.

In addition to the limit imposed by law, businesses have placed their own caps on the amount of weed that an individual can purchase to avoid a pot shortage. According to Business Week, the price of an ounce of commercial-grade marijuana shot up to $400 since sales began, double the price of an ounce of medicinal marijuana at a state dispensary. That price may come down as inventory increases and demand decreases.

Mike Elliot, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, said that the limited number of businesses providing cannabis for recreational use may help those who didn’t support its legalization get used to the new law. He added that the limited supply will also help counter beliefs that the new law will have a widespread negative effect on communities.

Critics of the law view marijuana as a gateway drug, and believe it can lead to the use of more habit-forming and dangerous drugs such as heroine, inhalants, or alcohol.

According to the National Health Survey on Drug Use and Health, the United States of America has the highest rate of illegal drug consumption in the world. In 2010, twenty-two million Americans ages 12 and older, approximately 9 percent of the U.S. population, used illegal drugs, compared to 5 percent of the rest of the world.

According to the survey, marijuana was the most common drug used, with more than 17 million users in 2010. The survey also found that the average age at which an individual was first trying cannabis was 18.4 years, up from 17 in 2002.

Gil Kerlikowski, director of National Drug Control Policy, said he believes states that legalize and decriminalize marijuana for both medical and recreational uses also face an increase in crime and drug abuse rates.

“Emerging research reveals potential links between the state laws permitting access to smoke medical marijuana and higher rates of marijuana use,” Kerlikowski told CNN.

Nonetheless, marijuana is estimated to become a $10 billion industry by 2018. Maine is projected to be the second state in America to legalize cannabis; while Maine already provides weed for medical purposes and has decriminalized its use, a November measure to legalize and tax its sale failed in the state Legislature.

Ashley Wright

Special to the AFRO