The Failing Marijuana Experiment

As one of the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012, Colorado serves as ground zero for evidence on how our country’s grand experiment with legalized marijuana is working out (the state of Washington was the other, for those who are curious). Unfortunately, recently reported results seem to be bearing out many of the concerns I mentioned in my previous articles on the subject.

Marijuana Confidential: The Dark Side

Legal pot has unleashed unintended consequences on local communities

  • The number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes more than doubled from 10 percent to 20 percent since 2013.(1)

  • Legal pot has unleashed unintended consequences on communities n of marijuana. (2)

  • Colorado has experienced 14 percent higher auto collision claims than its neighboring states since 2013.(3)

  • Tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2016 was just slightly more than $13 million. The additional cost to law enforcement, healthcare and addiction treatment is unknown. At least $1 million was spent on public education with an emphasis on the dangers of impaired driving.

  • 72 percent of marijuana consumers believe it’s safer to drive under the influence of marijuana than under the influence of alcohol. More than 50 percent admit to driving within two hours of consuming marijuana. (4)

  • Past month use of marijuana among 12-17 year olds increased from 9.82 percent to 12.56 percent. (5

  • Marijuana related emergency room visits by teens has more than quadrupled. (6)

  • Numerous federal seizures of marijuana in Colorado were destined for states in which marijuana is not legal. (7)

  • While national crime rates have dropped or remained stable, during this period, Colorado has experienced increases in rape, murder, robbery and auto-thefts. (8)

  • Black and Latino youth arrests for marijuana possession, which were expected to decrease, actually increased 58 and 29 percent, respectively, since legalization.

  • College students with access to recreational marijuana, on average, receive lower grades and fail classes at a higher rate. (9)

The Marijuana DUI

We’re also hearing similar things from the people with feet on the ground. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of DUI cases in which marijuana is involved,” noted Denver deputy district attorney Rich Orman, “and that’s been just since the legalization of recreational marijuana.” Then, there’s the average person on the street who believes things such as “I’m generally a pretty impatient guy, but when I’m stoned, I’m more tolerant,” as reported by the Denver Post. In response to which the Colorado Department of Transportation safety and communications spokesman Sam Cole replied, “It’s a myth that driving high is somehow safer than drunk driving. Reaction times, motor skills and general perception of speed, time and distance are all impaired by marijuana.” The average marijuana user’s perceptions don’t seem to match up with reality.\

The Crusade Continues

Sadly, all of this evidence flies in the face of justifications made by marijuana advocates for approving legislation. We were promised that: (i) tax revenue would help shore up state budgets, but marijuana tax revenue represents a paltry 1.18 percent of Colorado’s state budget, (ii) legalization would take a bite out of the thriving black market, but that continues unabated, with some cartels now trading heroin for marijuana to launder their money, and (iii) alcohol sales would decrease, but that has not turned out to be the case either. Moreover, we were assured that strict processes would be put in place to limit access to minors, another broken promise. This is a scary harbinger of things to come on a national scale, given the mass legalization that has occurred in Colorado’s wake.

The Cole Memo:

  1. Preventing distribution of marijuana to minors.

  2. Preventing marijuana revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels.

  3. Preventing marijuana from moving out of states where it is legal.

  4. Preventing the use of state legal marijuana sales as a cover for illegal activity.

  5. Preventing violence and use of firearms in growing or distributing marijuana.

  6. Preventing drugged driving.

  7. Preventing growing marijuana on public lands.

  8. Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

Sessions May Start All Over

Unfortunately, Colorado’s experience contravenes every single one of the eight priorities established in the Cole Memo. That’s probably why Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems prepared to rip it up and start from scratch, with stricter enforcement. However, strict enforcement is clearly no panacea either. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that we all need to become more actively involved. We are in the midst of creating a generation more prone to both addiction and greater dysfunction. By lending our experience and expertise to the issue, and lobbying for what’s right, we can hopefully stop this madness in its tracks and help reverse it’s course, before it becomes too late to turn back.

  1. Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2017.

  2. The Annals of Emergency Medicine, 2017.

  3. The Highway Loss Data Institute, 2017.

  4. Denver Post, No Driving While High? Wishful Thinking, August 28, 2017.

  5. Smart Approaches to Marijuana, August 30, 2017.

  6. University of Colorado Study, 2017.

  7. Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, 2017.

  8. Colorado Department of public Safety, 2017.

  9. Washington Post