Marijuana

Colorado’s Lessons from Legal Pot

The panic proved unfounded.

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marijuana
Credit: tanjila / photo on flickr

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper opposed a 2012 state ballot initiative to allow the sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. He told voters it might "increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are OK." Spurning his advice, voters approved it. 

So he might be excused if, four years later, he were tempted to gaze upon the results of this experiment and say, "I told you so." In fact, Hickenlooper has done just the opposite. "It's beginning to look like it might work," he said recently. 

For years, the state had allowed the medical use of cannabis, which was sold in licensed dispensaries. Under the new system, pot is regulated and taxed much like alcohol. The new shops began doing business Jan. 1, 2014. 

Andrew Freedman, the governor's "marijuana czar," acknowledges that "for the most part, Colorado looks a lot like it did before legalization." He says Hickenlooper is "pleasantly surprised that there were not as many challenges as he thought." 

The fears expressed back then are familiar ones: Drug use would soar. Kids would take the change as approval to get high. Stoned drivers would make the roads more dangerous. And public health would suffer. But by now, anyone waiting for a parade of horribles may be running out of patience. 

There have been some unwelcome side effects. Emergency room visits for marijuana-related problems have increased, apparently because of inexperienced users ingesting too much of the drug—often in edible form, such as candy bars. 

A couple of deaths were blamed on reactions to overdoses. So the state issued new rules to prevent such mistakes. 

Aside from those and the emergence of pot tourism, legalization has been remarkable for how unremarkable it's been. Freedman told the Los Angeles Times he's seen no real change in health or safety problems. 

The latest edition of "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know," by researchers Jonathan P. Caulkins, Beau Kilmer and Mark A.R. Kleiman, notes that adult use has risen in Colorado—though less rapidly than in three other states. 

But the authors also say, "It is difficult to know how much of the increase represents real change and how much reflects respondents' increased honesty about their marijuana use." Make certain conduct legal and those engaging in it have less reason to lie. 

A federal agency reported in December that Colorado had the nation's highest rate of consumption among kids ages 12 to 17, with nearly 13 percent using it in the previous month. But that rate has been as flat as eastern Colorado. The state Department of Public Safety found "no significant change" in cannabis use by teens. 

Blaming the relatively high rate on legalization may get the causation backward. It could be teens smoke a lot of pot because it became legal (for adults, that is). Or it could be that it became legal because people in Colorado smoked a lot of pot. 

Alarmists predicted that more people would drive under the influence, causing a surge of highway deaths. But the danger of pot is commonly exaggerated. A study by Eduardo Romano of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found no evidence that marijuana use by drivers raises their risk of crashing. 

"Despite our results, I still think that marijuana contributes to crash risk," he told The New York Times, "only that its contribution is not as important as it was expected." In any event, the state's traffic death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven actually fell very slightly from 2013 through 2014. 

The overall results of legalization have not inspired panic. The Denver Post reports that at least four towns that haven't allowed recreational pot dispensaries are now considering it. 

"I think there's enough evidence out there that recreational marijuana can be done safely and responsibly," said Emmett Reistroffer, a member of the Englewood Liquor and Medical Marijuana Licensing Authority. The police chief of Littleton said he wouldn't "anticipate significant negative impact related to crime should the (City) Council choose to allow recreational sales." 

Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have also legalized recreational pot. Voters in California, Nevada and Maine are preparing to decide on their own legalization measures in November. 
The question raised by Colorado's mellow experience is not, "Why do it?" It's, "Why not?"

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc. 

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60 responses to “Colorado’s Lessons from Legal Pot

  1. Written like a true pot smoker and one who has not tried to find Any problems with legal pot.

    1. Do you own and control your own body or does the centralized government?

      1. Silly rockabilly, self-ownership is a lie.

        1. That’s what my GF tells me when she jacks off my cock.

    2. So, nu, tell me – what are the problems with legal pot? Enlighten me if you would.

      1. Well, it makes you inappropriately capitalize words like “Any.”

        1. Some people can’t help it, Myself included.

          Alternatively, he might not know how to use html tags and wanted to put emphesis on any problems.

          1. So wouldn’t the entire word be capitalized in that case?

    3. Written like a true authoritarian who has not found any problems with a nanny state government. I bet you think all sodas should be 6 oz or less too and that the government should carefully regulate your salt intake.

    4. Kiss my ass and lick my asshole. Fuck you.

      1. *Directed towards the prohibitionist cocksucker.

        1. I forgot. “Die in a fire”, along with your family.

          1. ignited by a flash bang grenade tossed in his house during a wrong-address-no-knock raid.

            1. After which they perform a body cavity search on his corpse

        2. you say “kiss my ass”, “lick my asshole” and “cocksucker” like these are bad things.

          Clearly that means you aren’t doing it/having-it-done-to-you right.

    5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8NToc3Yky4

      *Unless that was intended to be sarcasm

    6. I don’t think he was suggesting that pot shouldn’t be legal. But while we all know that weed will cure all known diseases, that hemp is the perfect material to make biodegradable airplanes from and that smoking it has been 100% effective in preventing bear attacks, some pot stories seem rather overblown. I think that was all he was saying; that the negative side should be explored as well.

    7. Commented like a true drug-warboner who didn’t RTFA.

  2. Hickenlooper is “pleasantly surprised that there were not as many challenges as he thought.”

    But not sufficiently surprised to resign for incompetence.

    1. If Chapman ever gets an interview with Hickenlooper, Chapman should ask about Hickenlooper’s nephew.

      1. Hickenlooper’s nephew

        Nice band name.

        1. Hickenlooper’s Ginger Nephew

        2. Going in the other direction, I think Uncle Hickenlooper would be a better band name.

      2. Chapman should ask about Hickenlooper’s nephew.

        I’ll ask. Phone number? Price list?

    2. What did he do that was incompetent?

      1. He exercised wrongthink by the libertarian definition.

        1. I was surprised that he was so “uncool” about legalization, especially being a bar/restaraunt owner and hipster type. But overall (from a consumer’s perspective) I’m pretty happy with how CO has handled legalization. There was no roadmap for them to follow and they were pretty much making it up as they went…still are.

          1. Radical change terrifies politicians.

            I don’t think he believed most of the excuses unless he honestly thinks everyone has so little self-regard that they’d be high 24/7/365 if it weren’t illegal.

  3. Alarmists predicted that more people would drive under the influence, causing a surge of highway deaths. But the danger of pot is commonly exaggerated. A study by Eduardo Romano of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found no evidence that marijuana use by drivers raises their risk of crashing.

    Despite our results, I still think that marijuana contributes to crash risk,” he told The New York Times, “only that its contribution is not as important as it was expected.”

    Mah feelz beats stoopid data!

    1. Just ignore the data and lie. That’s very simple.

      1. So just like climate change?

  4. The lesson not being learned here is that we need to end this half-legal nonsense. If you are going to legalize it, you need to go all-in. It took several decades for beer to move to normalcy following the end of prohibition, because of all of the stupid rules they tried to put in place. We still aren’t finished stripping all of that out of the country.

    If pot were to be truly legal, we’d have a much different world. Instead of little “get-rich-quick” operations we’d have big companies selling marijuana products at main-line stores. Products would be safe and effective. Doses would be predictable. Side effects would be minimized.

    We are headed there, but sooo slowly. In the age of the internet, where whole industries are born overnight, this is frustratingly slow. Elon Musk is going to land a man-rated spacecraft on Mars in the time it is taking to get just a few states to quazi-legalize marijuana. It really shouldn’t be easier for a random entrepreneur to land a spaceship on Mars than it is for us to get out of our own way on the topic of getting high.

    1. Imagine all the shit we could do, if only other humans weren’t telling us not to.

      1. It’s not like we need jobs or anything.

      2. We can’t allow unfettered markets. Markets must be constrained. People must ask permission and obey orders. Otherwise we’ll have rampant inequality as people get rich by selling goods and services that make people happy. We can’t allow that. It’s not fair. It’s better that everyone be equally poor than unequally rich.

      3. Most government employees are too busy fucking over anyone they can. However, it’s not like they’d be busy doing something useful or constitutional.

    2. It took several decades for beer to move to normalcy following the end of prohibition,

      ::snicker::
      -random person in Van Zandt County, Texas

  5. This is not going to stop the nanny nazi mothers against everything from trying to kill legal pot through over regulation nor will it likely stop the feds from being assholes about the whole thing. Another lesson to learn is that the fight doesn’t stop at the ballot box.

    1. Even though voters approved pot, the stores couldn’t get bank accounts, lines of credit or anything else because of the feds. They basically have to keep cash in vaults themselves and pay suppliers in cash. Then the nannys wanted edibles stamped with warnings, not just the packaging but the actual edibles which even for products where that could be done it was cost prohibitive. The drinks, forget about it.

  6. “Or it could be that it became legal because people in Colorado smoked a lot of pot.”

    “Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high
    Rocky Mountain high, Colorado.”

    I’m thinking there might be a correlation between pot use and teenage Rush fans.

    I bet a disproportionate number of teens in Colorado could have matched Rush to “By-Tor & the Snow Dog” even before pot became legal there.

    Also, Northern California and Oregon. Jesus, the kids there still wear tie-dye. Does tie-dye correlate to pot use?

    Of course it does.

  7. +1 John Denver

  8. Andrew Freedman, the governor’s “marijuana czar,” acknowledges that “for the most part, Colorado looks a lot like it did before legalization.”

    But I have it on good authority (Chris Christie & other prohibitionist assholes) that CO is now awash with stoned drivers, head shops on every corner, potheads shuffling around the streets like zombies, children being turned in to dope fiends (gateway drugz!) and cats and dogs sleeping together, MASS HYSTERIA! Who am I supposed to believe, them, or my own lieing eyes? /sarc

    1. And the horrors you’re describing would be an improvement to Newark.

      1. Or Trenton, or Camden, or the Jersey shore, or…

  9. RE: Colorado’s Lessons from Legal Pot
    The panic proved unfounded.

    Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper opposed a 2012 state ballot initiative to allow the sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. He told voters it might “increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are OK.” Spurning his advice, voters approved it.

    It just goes to show you there are more intelligent people in Colorado than Governor Chickenlooper thought.

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    1. Go away asshole.

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  13. “I think there’s enough evidence out there that recreational marijuana can be done safely and responsibly,”

    Well isn’t that just spiffy? The only thing that ever made it dangerous in the first place, was Government and Criminal Organizations.

    1. That’s a redundancy.

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