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Post: From free-for-all to business as usual: How marijuana sales have evolved in Fort Collins

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From free-for-all to business as usual: How marijuana sales have evolved in Fort Collins

When cannabis became legal in Colorado more than a decade ago, it quickly turned into a cash cow with sales tax revenue piling up as if the state were printing money.

The state taxed the industry heavily, with much of the revenue going to help schools with infrastructure needs. With the distinction of being the first state to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, communities working without a road map scrambled to write local regulations to restrict when and where dispensaries opened and operated. Opponents worried about the potential increase in crime in the predominantly cash business. Employers fretted about people coming to work high.

Some communities banned dispensaries from the start. Others embraced them.

Fort Collins was among those that had a tumultuous start, first imposing a moratorium, then approving, banning and shuttering dispensaries before ultimately approving them again as voters’ wishes ebbed and flowed. A budtender helps a customer at Organic Alternatives in Fort Collins on March 8. Sales tax revenue from the sale of recreational and medical marijuana has dropped significantly since its peak in 2021. Now, the "free-for-all" early days have turned into business as usual. Fears never played out.

Those who opposed legalization of a drug the federal government still considers illegal couldn’t deny the financial windfall.

From 2014 through August 2023, cannabis sales surpassed $15 billion statewide, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Fort Collins racked up nearly $1.5 billion, resulting in more than $24 million in sales tax revenue. Larimer County, with only two dispensaries, […]

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