5 Months Of Legal Weed In Colorado: Here’s What’s Really Been Happening
It's been five months since Colorado historically became the first U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but that hasn't ended the battle over legal weed – or so some purport. According to New York Times‘ sources, law enforcement officers, emergency room doctors and legalization opponents claim to see an increasing number of problems, citing examples such as a murder committed by a Denver man hours after buying some marijuana-infused candy, and growing numbers of children and adults visiting the emergency room because of pot-related ailments. But even the Times admits that these anecdotes are in the presence of little hard data.
Instead, the state's new recreational marijuana stores—already exceeding 200—are vastly abiding by the stringent rules for their operation and have reported no incidents of unlawful activity, in spite of selling legal weed to hundreds of thousands of customers. More astoundingly, Colorado has already generated $12.6 million in taxes and fees, and an estimated $30 million is expected by years' end. Just think what a similar nationwide adoption could do for the deficit! Sales have certainly been impressive, with $19 million in sales during the month of March alone and a full $98 million expected by the end of 2014.
As for weed-infused crime, it's just not happening. Violent crimes in Denver are down so far this year. In fact, the number of Denver robberies has dropped 4.8 percent for the January through April period when compared to 2013, and assaults are down 3.7 percent. Overall, violent and property crime in the city has dropped an impressive 10.6 percent compared to the same span last year, homicides have dropped to half of last year's levels and auto theft has decreased by one third.
“Every major institution said this would be horrible and lead to violence and blood in the streets,” Brian Vicente, one of the authors of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in Colorado, told the Times. “None of that’s happened. The sky did not fall.”
It also appears smugglers aren't crossing states lines with their preferred weed as many had earlier feared. Although Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told a Senate panel in April that Kansas officials had reported a 61-percent increase in marijuana seizures, the Kansas Highway Patrol actually reported a 61-percent decline in marijuana seizures, down from 2,790 pounds during the first four months of 2013, to just 1,090 pounds this year. It only makes sense that Kansans are smoking their weed legally before they cross states lines, after all.
“I've heard people saying it's becoming an epidemic, and it's certainly not,” Capt. Scott Harrington of the Kansas Highway Patrol, whose troopers patrol the eastern boundary of Colorado, told USA Today. “It's status quo. We're just not seeing something that turns our heads.”
Similarly, officials in Utah, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming told USA Today they have experienced no influx of marijuana crimes since Colorado's legalization.
Still nothing, not even legal pot, is perfect, and Colorado officials have reported issues related particularly to the sale of weed-infused treats, including cookies, candies and, of course, the classic pot brownies. Much of the problem with the sweets relate to children obtaining those purchased by family members. For example, one fourth grader sold some of his grandmother's marijuana to classmates on the playground, before a second student brought more marijuana edibles—also belonging to his grandmother, ironically—the next day. But should the concern be for the availability of legal marijuana to minors or instead about old ladies who are too stoned to keep track of their own stash?
“This was kind of an unintended consequence of Colorado’s new law,” John Gates, the district’s director of school safety and security, told the Times. “For crying out loud, secure your weed. If you can legally possess it, that’s fine. But it has no place in an elementary school.”
So, despite opponents claims that legal marijuana will create a path straight to hell, little evidence suggests burning a little weed will cause stoners to burn in eternal fire. Of course, it's still too early to tell; but as they now say, they didn't name Denver the “mile-high city” for nothing…