A Colorado Senator looks at the key lessons learned from the legalization of recreational cannabis in that state
Colorado legalized Cannabis for recreational use on November the 6th, 2012, with the introduction of ‘Amendment 64’. In this video, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper explores both the positive, and the negative sides, of the steps his state took to legalize Cannabis.
What Colorado did was different
Colorado’s bold decision to legalize was an experiment in democracy, an economic experiment and let’s remember, it was not without it’s risks.
Looking back now, the results they achieved have not only been largely positive, but few of the major risks that some people presented as concerns prior to legalization, have materialized. (According to Hickenloper.)
There are still problems to solve, of course but Colorado’s experience provides guidance on how others can follow in an informed way.
FACTColorado legalized Cannabis for recreational use on November the 6th, 2012 under ‘Amendment 64.’ Their governor at the time now claims the step as the biggest experiment in democracy of the 21st Century.
Was Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis the biggest experiment in democracy of the (first half of the) 21stCentury?
What were the key lessons learned by legalizing?
Hickenloper is open about the fact that Colorado didn’t get everything right first time.
- Kids consumed cannabis edibles and ended up in hospital:
Unfortunately, Colorado suffered a number of incidents in which children consumed Cannabis edibles (which, for example, are sometimes sold as Gummy Bears) and had to be taken to hospital for treatment, as a result. Colorado solved the problem by ensuring that Cannabis products, including and especially edibles, were sold in tamper proof plastic containers, so that little hands could not access the drug.
- The testing they did initially on drivers impaired by cannabis were not effective:
Roadside tests were inadequate when Colorado first legalized the consumption of weed. The technology the police used at the time to determine whether the driver had consumed an amount of cannabis which might intoxicate them, is still the solution Australian police use today. Colorado’s experience in this area may well have contributed to the development of a much better device for Law Enforcement officers to use. New breathalyzers are capable of determining drivers’ level of impairment.
- On the plus side, at least young people didn’t smoke it:
The science on the risks of young people smoking cannabis is extremely clear. (link to ‘does cannabis cause psychosis article) It’s recommended that people under 25 (the age psychologists tell us the human brain stops developing) should not take marijuana in any form. One of the key risks Colorado faced was a sharp uptick in the number of young people using cannabis ,and the negative effects that might accompany that. It never happened.
Summing up Colorado's experiment with Cannabis
Has cannabis legalization been the biggest experiment in democracy of the first half of the 21st Century? Maybe. China believes it’s communist / capitalist mix, under which, for example, they place government staff members on the boards of their most powerful private companies is a more effective model than straight democracy and may have earned the right to at least compete for the prize. Additionally, those who enjoyed the ‘Arab spring’, in Tunisia, mobilizing citizens to overthrow their authoritarian government using Social Media, might also feel chided by the suggestion.
Nevertheless, their experience (those who live in Colorado, that is) has been helpful for, it seems, both their own community and at least the many American states which have followed them down the path of legalization, too.
The mistakes Colorado have made can now serve as a checklist for additional US States and even other countries in deciding how to legalize marijuana in an effective way gaining the benefits without suffering all the costs Colorado had to.
As Canada and New Zealand both near the commencement of their experiments, the world will be watching, hoping to learn more and provide extra science, of the sort Colorado has produced, which can enlighten those who follow.