Celebrating 10 Years of Cannabis Legalization in Colorado
Nov 7, 2022
November 6 marks the 10th anniversary of the passage of Amendment 64, the historic ballot initiative that legalized cannabis in Colorado and produced the world’s first regulated, adult-use cannabis market.
Voters' approval of Amendment 64 and the successful implementation of the measure did not come easy. They were the products of more than seven years of advocacy work, involving multiple organizations, over a dozen staffers, thousands of volunteers, a broad coalition, and millions of dollars in donations. Those contributions paid off, and Colorado's experience with legalization catapulted the issue into the international spotlight, inspiring voters and governments throughout the U.S. and around the globe to reexamine their cannabis prohibition policies and replace them with systems inspired by Colorado's.
Amendment 64 was approved 55-45 on November 6, 2012, and it officially took effect the following month (December 10, 2012, to be exact). The citizen-initiated constitutional amendment legalized possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older. It directed the Legislature to establish a regulatory framework and taxes for adult-use marijuana, and voters approved its tax proposal in November 2013. Amendment 64 also legalized and regulated the cultivation of hemp for industrial use.
Regulated adult marijuana sales commenced January 1, 2014. Since then, more than $13.4 billion in regulated marijuana sales have taken place in licensed Colorado marijuana stores, and officials estimate the vast majority of cannabis sales in Colorado take place in the regulated market. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports more than $2.27 billion in cannabis tax and fee revenue has been collected by the state government since adult sales began, which far exceeds revenue estimates released during the Amendment 64 campaign. Local governments have also collected hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue from local taxes and fees.
More than $400 million in state cannabis tax revenue has been allocated to a fund that supports public school construction projects, and more than $226 million has been allocated to the state public school fund and programs aimed at early literacy, dropout prevention, bullying prevention, and hiring in-school health professionals. State tax revenue has also funded marijuana and hemp regulation, law enforcement, cannabis research, impaired driving prevention, 4-H and FFA programming, affordable housing grants and loans, and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
As of June 2022, there were more than 2,950 active cannabis business licenses in Colorado, including 950 active retail establishment licenses, and 41,948 active occupational licenses issued to individuals working in the cannabis industry.
Commemorating 10 Years
Earlier this month, several current and former Colorado officials joined Vicente Sederberg and its consulting affiliate, VS Strategies, at the History Colorado Center to commemorate the milestone. Gov. Jared Polis provided opening remarks, and U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who both opposed Amendment 64 in 2012, discussed how their positions have evolved. Specifically, they acknowledged that their concerns never materialized, and they expressed support for legal cannabis in Colorado, extolling the state’s responsible regulatory system and its role as a national and global leader in cannabis policy. You can watch videos of their remarks at the bottom of this article.
Several local and national media outlets covered the anniversary, including the Colorado Sun, Marijuana Moment, The Guardian, the Denver Gazette, Westword, Law Week Colorado, and LA Weekly.
You can also see VS founding partner Brian Vicente and VSS partner Mason Tvert discuss the history and anniversary of Amendment 64 on the Denver NBC news affiliate, or you can listen to them on the High Rise podcast.
Leaders Then and Now
Several leaders at Vicente Sederberg and VS Strategies played critical roles in the drafting, passage, and implementation of Amendment 64, as well as the advocacy efforts that led up to it.
- Brian Vicente, founding partner of VS, was a lead drafter of A64 and co-directed the campaign. He also directed the campaign in support of vital cannabis tax measures approved in 2013. In 2004, Brian helped launch Sensible Colorado, a nonprofit which helped lay the groundwork for Amendment 64. During that time, Brian led impact litigation on behalf of a Denver AIDS patient that opened the door for medical cannabis dispensaries in Colorado. He subsequently played a significant role in helping lawmakers develop the state's first-in-the-national medical cannabis regulatory system.
- Christian Sederberg, founding partner of VS, contributed to the drafting of A64, worked on the campaign, and represented it on the governor’s implementation task force. He also oversaw legislative efforts to implement A64 and continually improve the state’s regulatory system. Christian was also heavily involved in efforts to establish and improve Colorado's medical cannabis regulatory system, and he held several roles with statewide and national cannabis industry organizations.
- Josh Kappel, founding partner of VS, contributed to the drafting of A64, worked on the campaign, and played a key role in drafting the successful Denver social use initiative. He is now chair of the campaign in support of the Colorado Natural Medicine Initiative, Prop. 122, which he helped draft. Josh worked on medical cannabis policy through Sensible Colorado for several years, supporting efforts to establish and improve Colorado's regulated medical cannabis dispensary system.
- Shawn Hauser, partner at Vicente Sederberg, volunteered for the A64 campaign and, following its passage, she oversaw local government implementation efforts in cities and towns across the state. Shawn also played a crucial role in the development of Colorado’s hemp program, and she has since become a leading national and international voice on hemp and cannabinoid policy.
- Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research at VS and partner at VS Strategies, joined the A64 campaign as a volunteer staffer. Since then, he has become an authority on Colorado cannabis policy and economics, serving on working groups and drafting white papers on critical regulatory issues.
- Mason Tvert, partner at VS Strategies, was co-director of the A64 campaign. In 2005, he co-founded Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), which laid the groundwork for the successful 2012 initiative. During that time, he led the successful 2005 and 2007 Denver ballot initiative campaigns to, respectively, legalize cannabis for adult use and designate it the state's lowest law enforcement. He also ran the 2006 statewide legalization initiative campaign as part of a strategy for building support, recruiting and mobilizing supporters, and establishing a statewide campaign infrastructure.
- Jordan Wellington, partner at VS Strategies, was a legislative staffer who shepherded implementation legislation through the General Assembly, then joined the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, where he drafted many of the state’s cannabis regulations. He has remained intimately involved in every aspect of cannabis policy in Colorado, sitting on working groups and lobbying in support of continual improvements to Colorado's cannabis regulatory system.