Marijuana in Colorado a Year Later: Fewer Crimes and Accidents, More Money for the Treasury

Twelve months after legalization of marijuana in Colorado, even Gov. Hickenlooper recognizes the positive outcome of the undertaken path. For the police, alcohol made for the main danger on the roads, while charges are dropping. Meanwhile, in 2014 more than $60 million made its way into public coffers, surpassing the foreseen upper limit, triggering a reimbursement to the citizens.

It has been one year since the legalization of the sale of marijuana in Colorado, and the first accounts are being drawn. The negative predictions of detractors were revealed as being wrong, to the point of persuading the state’s governor, John Hickenlooper, to publicly recognize the good outcome of the path launched with the 2012 referendum, to which he had voted “no.” The thesis of an increase in crime, especially against private property, following from the regulation of recreational and medical use of marijuana turned out to be false, and Uniform Crime Reporting of the Denver Police Department even certified a drop of 7.9 percent since the start of sales in the state’s main county.

Similarly, the prediction of increased danger on the roads was revealed as being wrong, considering that for 2014, the statistics indicate a decrease in lethal road accidents in all of Colorado, as compared to the previous year, which is in line with a constant trend of reduction since 2002, reached through a repressive policy toward driving while under the influence. The penalties for this crime, in fact, include driver’s license suspension for nine months, a $600 to $1,000 fine, 96 hours of community service, and up to one year in prison. Also, the most up to date statistics indicate that in 2014, only 12.5 percent of people penalized for driving while under the influence in Colorado had surpassed the legal limit of 0.05 percent of nanograms of THC (the main active ingredient of marijuana) per milliliter of blood. Most of those stopped had abused another legal psychotropic substance: alcohol.

Among all the erroneous predictions, the most favorable one for the governor remains the treasury cash flow tied to cannabis, which “respecting” what had anticipated, surpassed the expected upper limit, to the point of compelling Hickenlooper to give a reimbursement to the citizens. According to data that was updated in October, in 2014, marijuana brought $60,128,757 to Colorado state coffers between taxes, tariffs and licenses. If the trend stays constant, the year will close with around $75 million in income, and thanks to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights — a state law that requires restitution to the citizens of the amount of tariffs in excess of planned annual income — nearly half of this amount ($30.5 million) must go back into the pockets of citizens between 2015 and 2016.

The only negative marks of this post-legalization year are, however, related to the ingestion of cannabis foods. The Colorado Children’s Hospital registered nine cases of intoxication from accidental ingestion by children, of which six had ensuing medical complications. At any rate, a comparison with the total number of visits to the building minimizes the data, if we consider that the cited cases represent only 0.01 percent of the total. In addition, none of the intoxications were reported on the dreaded night of Halloween, even though the alarm was rung about the possible distribution of “spiked candy” with a quantity of THC above the legal limit (10 mg) during the event. The only lethal case associated with marijuana was a college student who fell from a balcony after having eaten cannabis cookies with a quantity that was six times above the legal limit.

While limited, these cases still keep the authorities on high alert about consumption by “minors” (in Colorado, this means anyone under 12): a critical point always under the magnifying lens of the government on the effects of legalization, as well as the subject of the recent youth awareness campaign, Don’t Be a Lab Rat, focused on stigmatizing the consumption of cannabis among minors as the source of the unwanted effects in the middle and long term. The campaign bases its ultimate scientific reference on the recent Australian study published on The Lancet, which confirmed the correlation between continued consumption of marijuana among minors under 17 and low performance in school, something that continues even in successive years until the end of habitual use.

Taking a cue from the invitation of the scientific community, many American commentators conclude that the analysis of this annual account signals that the consequences of legalization in Colorado must be read in the middle to long term, according to a process of normative adjustment, following the eventuality of the correlated negative phenomena, which to this day have not been compared. A recent Denver Post poll has in fact confirmed that more than 90 percent of the participants who had voted “yes” to the legalization referendum would do it again. The nearly $700 million in revenue generated from the sale of marijuana in 2014 — mostly from medical use — is not a negligible reason.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply