Colorado Weighs Negative Implications of Marijuana Legalization

Coloradoans were delighted when their home State became the first in the US to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

Colorado weighs negative implications of marijuana legalization

It’s already 6 years since Colorado legalized

The people who live in the US State of Colorado – let’s call them Coloradoans – were delighted when their home state became the first in the US to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, back in 2012, subsequent to a referendum on the subject. November 2018 marks the sixth anniversary of weed legalization in Colorado.

In that time, countless studies and surveys have been published highlighting the effects of legalizing pot in the states by both proponents and opponents, of the legalization.

Those who lobbied for legalization did so with many aims. They hoped to improve public health, benefit their economy, and reduce the crime rate they were experiencing. The government aimed to regulate and tax a marijuana industry which was already widely used, illegally, on the black market.

Unfortunately, some members of the law enforcement community in Colorado say legalization has done the exact opposite.


Police Chiefs Speak Out Against Legal Cannabis

Ernie Martinez, a command officer with the Denver Metro Police Department, finds marijuana legalization an inappropriate implication. He adds that because of the easy availability and affordability, the state has seen increases in crime rate, assaults and illegal marijuana possession by teens.

In November 2017, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial highlighting the negative consequences of weed legalization, directing attention towards an increase in homelessness, a rise in (doubling of) fatal traffic accidents involving weed-intoxicated drivers, and a rise in weed consumption among teens.


Negative Consequences of Weed Legalization in Colorado

It has made homelessness worse

In 2014, an editorial segment “Stoned Homeless in Colorado” published by O’Reilly Factor claimed that Colorado neighborhoods were turning in to shanty towns as a result of legalization.

In 2017, the Colorado Department of Public Safety's Division of Criminal Justice surveyed 507 inmates in seven Colorado Jails. They found that that 62 percent of the homeless respondents had moved to Colorado from other states. 59 percent of them said they were in the state before marijuana legalization.

The statistics present a picture of the link between pot and homelessness.

Overall, it appears there is at least some evidence supporting the claim that homelessness has increased in Colorado, since the legalization of cannabis.


Impaired Driving

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) purport an increase by 145 percent in the number of weed-intoxicated drivers in fatal accidents between 2013 and 2016 in Colorado.

There is evidence contradicting such a claim, however. The Denver Post claims that THC often stays in a person’s blood for weeks after consumption. As a result, a driver may test positive for the drug, even when the driver was suffering no impairment at the time of the accident.


The Use of Marijuana by the Youth of Colorado

Since pot legalization, the number of marijuana related offenses have increased in Colorado.

Studies show that more teens between  the ages of 12 and 17, as well as an increased number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, are using pot than in states where marijuana is still illegal, than those living in states which have legalized it, an important finding.


Booming Black Market

Interestingly, despite the fact that there are more than 500 legal, recreational weed dispensaries throughout Colorado, the black market is still operating. Statistics showed that arrests for the production of black market pot increased by 380 percent between 2014 and 2016.

It appears that some drug trafficking organizations are causing some of the issue. There is evidence to suggest that some of them move to Colorado, set up their shops in the state and smuggle weed out to their home states, where it is illegal, making an incredible profit in the meantime.

Gangs grow marijuana in warehouses, rental homes, and even on forested federal land. Florida, Texas and Illinois are the biggest recipients of the illegal weed from Colorado.

Additionally, investors say that illegal trade has flourished in Colorado because of overly generous laws, which are hard to enforce, for growing marijuana.


Final words

There are no clear answers here but the voice of Police Chiefs is not one we should readily ignore. One thing is clear – marijuana legalization has had at least some negative effect on the law enforcement as well as society in the state. Though Colorado has a highly regulated framework for Cannabis, there’re still a number of deficiencies which should be addressed as soon as possible.