In 2012, my fellow Coloradans thought it would be a good idea to legalize the sale of so-called medical marijuana in our state. Lefty billionaire George Soros helped get it on the ballot to get the Cheech and Chong vote to the polls to help re-elect Barack Obama.
Those who proposed it as a good idea made all kinds of wonderful promises about how it would improve our already marvelous state. The same promises are being made in the nine states that will be voting on the issue on Tuesday.
It seems reasonable for these voters to ask how these grand promises have worked out in real life here in the Rocky Mountain State. All around the Internet, you can find “fact sheets” that make claims about how wonderful legal pot has been to our communities: Lower crime, fewer drug arrests, decreases in traffic fatalities, and higher tax revenues. Government data tells a very different story, however.
As a citizen of 20 years here, seeing the effects on my community and neighbors, I don’t see much benefit and do see a great deal of serious harm. We live in a very different state than we did before 2012. Let me give you just a few facts.
‘Just for Medicinal Purposes’ Is a Bait ‘n Switch: If they are promising you legalization for medical marijuana only, what they really mean is medical marijuana will be first. Recreational will follow like the coal car behind the locomotive engine. This linkage only took one year for us.
Pot Arrests Aren’t Gone: We hear all about how arrests for possession have dropped dramatically. Of course they did. It’s legal. But these arrests were only cut by just less than half, which is curious. Why didn’t the arrests drop more? Legalization didn’t fix the illegal possession issue, as we will see below. It has brought more serious problems.
Now for Serious and Unexpected Concerns
Industry Growth: PotGuide.com happily boasts “there are more dispensaries in Colorado than Starbucks, McDonald’s and 7-Elevens combined — and the numbers keep growing.” We even have one-stop gas and grass stores. We have warehouse-type stores where growers come and buy the materials they need for their agricultural pursuits. It’s a totally full-blown industry here.
Creeping into Our Kids’ Schools: According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, of all misdemeanor pot-related offenses in public locations, the greatest numeric increase is around elementary/secondary schools, rising 400% in 2014 alone (see Table 4).
Student Use: Legalization has brought marked increases in pot usage among high school students. The percentage of Colorado teens reporting usage in the last 30 days increased 19 percent from 2012 to 2014. The same measure saw a 4 percent decrease across the United States (see Figure 25).
Organized Crime Still Runs a Black Market: Legalization was supposed to have removed the scourge of the black market altogether, one of the advocates’ most repeated promises. However, charges for distribution under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act relating to the marijuana trade increased 344 percent from 2012 to 2015 (see Table 5).
Additionally, the Denver police department is struggling under a 900 percent increase in “the unlawful cultivation and manufacture of marijuana and marijuana concentrate” as well as a 99 percent increase in the unlawful distribution of these two substances. They have seen an increase of 3,424 percent in the quantity of pot seized in the average arrest.
It’s basic economics. If one group is selling something for one price, another will come in under them and sell it for a lower price. This is what the pot black market does. It’s naïve to think it will go away.
Public Consumption: The Denver District Attorney circulated a public letter from his office last month explaining that unlawful public consumption of marijuana has increased more than 300 percent per year since Coloradans legalized recreational pot.
Traffic Deaths: This DA also reported that traffic deaths related to marijuana increased 48 percent the first year it was legal. The rate of driving under the influence of marijuana increased 121 percent in Denver from 2013 to 2015.
Emergency Room Traffic: The same letter states that marijuana-related emergency room visits increased 49 percent and related calls to poison control centers increased 100 percent.
Hospitalization: The rate of citizens hospitalized for any kind of marijuana exposure increased 68 percent from 2013 to 2015 throughout the state.
Car Thefts: The DA’s office finds that motor vehicle thefts increased 28 percent in Denver alone in 2015.
General Crime: In 2015, crime has risen notably in every neighborhood in Denver. Across the state, increases in marijuana-related crime from 2012-2015 are as follows (see Table 6):
Assault: 100 percent increase
Robbery: 21 percent increase
Burglary: 40 percent increase
Miscellaneous crime: 50 percent increase
Property Rentals: Another huge problem for owners of rental properties is renting to seemingly nice tenants and later finding the tenants have been using the basement for massive pot grows. Often these homes are totally destroyed by mold, extensive water damage from extensive hydration, terrific odors from the growing plants that seep permanently into the structure of the home, and extensive damage to poorly re-worked electrical systems for necessary lighting, not to mention the questionable folks regularly tramping in and out of the home every day.
Hundreds of these homeowners throughout the state have found their life’s investment totally trashed because their insurance doesn’t cover such damage.
Legalizing marijuana has had a marked and highly noticeable effect on our beautiful state. It certainly has not made ours a better state. All one needs to do is live here for a few months and observe what’s going on in the neighborhood to see how it’s changing.
See those next to you on the road partaking in the magic herb as they drive. See the increases in homelessness as people move to our state simply to smoke more pot with no plans for supporting themselves. See the increase in glassy eyes in the grocery stores, even among moms and dads with their small children in tow. See the businesses leaving our state because they can’t find workers who don’t come to work stoned.
If you are thinking legalization might be a good idea for your state, come spend some time with us first. You’ll see.