It was big news last year when the voters in Colorado and Washington decided to make it legal to purchase marijuana in those states. While the Evergreen State (Washington) is still writing the rules for how the system is going to work there, residents and tourists in Colorado are already experiencing their Rocky Mountain high. Part of the justification for making pot legal was the thinking that if a certain percentage of people were going to use the drug, then the state should legalize and regulate it so that fees and taxes could be received.

This week the first economic returns for Colorado were reported when the sales tax numbers for January were released. And to say some officials in the state were pleased would be an understatement.

A total of nearly $1 million of marijuana was sold legally in a limited number of licensed shops across the state. That raised $80,000 in sales taxes, $55,000 of which was collected at four shops in Pueblo County alone. County officials have stated they plan on licensing ten shops in 2014 and two more have already been added in February. Plans call for using the tax money to shore up a county budget that has struggled in the past few year in the area located south of Denver.

Looking statewide, Gov. Hickenlooper’s office projects the marijuana industry - including a growth in the tourist industry fueled by “pot destination” vacations - to hit the $1 billion mark in the fiscal year starting on July 1. That is double previous estimates.

Examining the issue strictly as an economic exercise, the returns appear to be helping local economies, but we feel it is entirely too early to be able to tell about the long-term effects on the state budget and the people.

- Will the legalization of marijuana lead to a larger number of users who move from pot to hard core drugs like heroin? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 957,000 people in the U.S. sought treatment for marijuana use in 2012. If that many people asked for help, how many others moved on to more potent drugs without seeking treatment and how much did that cost the states?

- Will the legalization of marijuana lead to a higher crime rate? Statistics in Ohio have shown that as heroin usage has grown in the past decade, corresponding crime rates have risen as well. While there has not been a causal relationship proven between marijuana and crime, if pot does prove to be a gateway drug, then will those crime rate statistics climb as well?

- Will the legalization of marijuana lead to greater use among teens in Colorado? Gov. Hickenlooper is so concerned about this potential problem that he has laid aside $45 million for youth marijuana-use prevention programs.

In fact, Hickenlooper - who was not in favor of the legalization of marijuana - has also earmarked $40 million of the state budget for substance abuse programs, $12 million on public health projects concerning drugs, $2 million for anti-stoned-driving campaigns, and $2 million to beef up law enforcement to regulate the marijuana shops. All of those expenditures are in addition to the $29 million Colorado was already spending on marijuana-based programs. Suddenly $101 million of potential fees and taxes are being put back into the system for problems that were not as extensive previously.

So as the country stands back and watches the grand experiment under way in Colorado, and soon in Washington, it appears that there really is no clear cut answer to what the final outcome will be in those states. It may be years before it is known.

What we know today is that we are glad that experiment is not taking place in Ohio.