Pros and cons of legalizing weed from a state that knows the numbers

Special Reports

In November 2012, voters in Colorado passed Amendment 64 becoming one of the first two U.S. states to allow for the retail sale and possession of marijuana.

Sales of recreational marijuana began in the Centennial State in January 2014.

The laws were simple: you must be 21 to buy, have or use marijuana, you can only legally have up to an ounce, you cannot use it in public and only licensed retailers can sell it.

Jack Reed, a statistical analyst with the Colorado Department of Public Safety put together 2018’s ‘Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,’ a compilation of data collected over the years.

“We were the first legal market in the world that had a retail regulated and taxed market,” Reed told News 2. “It was really to answer the question, what’s happening in Colorado?”

Reed’s findings showed the total number of marijuana arrests had decreased the state by about 52-percent between 2012 and 2017.

During that same time period, the number of marijuana-related court filings was down by nearly 55-percent and juvenile marijuana arrests had dropped by 16-percent.

From 2014 to 2017, the total number of DUI citations issued by Colorado State Patrol decreased from 5,705 to 4,849, while the prevalence of marijuana identified by patrol officers as the impairing substance increased from 12-percent to 15-percent of all DUIs.

“I don’t come across a lot of people that are sitting at a stoplight drinking a beer, but I do see more of it with somebody smoking pot while they’re driving down the road,” Trooper Gary Cutler with Colorado State Patrol explained.

Trooper Cutler said his agency had not seen an increase in drug trafficking but there was a problem with getting people to understand the dangers of using marijuana and getting behind the wheel.

“A lot of people go ‘well it’s just marijuana, it’s just pot’, and so what we need to do nowadays is make sure that we’re out there telling people this is still a dangerous drug to be driving on the road with,” Cutler said.

Colorado collected more than $900-million in taxes, licenses and fees related to legal marijuana since 2014.

The amount for 2018 was about $267-million, the state reported.

While a limit was placed on the amount of marijuana that could be purchased at a given time, Reed admitted there was still no real way to track it.

“A person can go from store to store to store and continue purchasing marijuana products to the point where they’ve got more than they are legally allowed to have,” Reed said.

Reed said Colorado has likely been approached more than any other state to serve as a model for what works and what does not.

“I think that we do a good job presenting the realities of what’s happened in our state— both the positive and negative— and to give some good lessons learned and suggestions for things that didn’t go well and things that went well,” Reed described.

If Tennessee went that route, Reed hoped state officials would make the trip to Colorado to learn more about recreational marijuana.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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