New Report From Colorado Shows Negative Effects of Marijuana Legalization

The latest update on marijuana in Colorado is being called ominous by Ohio pot opponents and “ fear mongering” by advocates leading up to the Nov. 3 election, when voters will decide legalization here.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s third annual report, released on Monday, showed the effects of legal marijuana in that state, including a 32 percent jump in marijuana-related traffic fatalities, big increases in emergency-room visits and hospitalizations, and greater pot usage by youths age 12 to 17.

The report, generated by the agency funded through the National Office of Drug Control Policy, also showed 40 percent more school expulsions, most of them marijuana related, since 2008; greater exposure of young children to the drug; a 2,000 percent increase in the number of Colorado mail parcels intercepted destined for other states; and 32 marijuana extraction-lab explosions in 2014.

Curt Steiner, a political consultant and spokesman for Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, said the report is handwriting on the wall if Ohio approves legalizing marijuana for recreational and medicinal use.

“There’s a lot at stake for the voters in Ohio,” Steiner said. “A few self-selected wealthy investors are doing something that could inflict permanent damage on our state.”

ResponsibleOhio, the group backing the marijuana amendment, called the report “fear mongering."

Ian James, ResponsibleOhio executive director, disputed some of the findings, saying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “has already looked at this and confirmed there is no increased crash risk associated with testing positive for marijuana.”

He said a Colorado Healthy Kids Survey showed “marijuana use among youth has gone down after legalization.”

“Yes on Issue 3 is a solution for Ohioans to overturn failed marijuana prohibition,” James said. “Without it, we’ll continue to surrender our streets to drug dealers who don’t create legitimate jobs, care about sick Ohioans, pay taxes or ID kids before they sell to them.”

But while traffic deaths in general have declined in Colorado, the percentage of marijuana-related fatalities increased, the report said. The Healthy Kids Survey was from 2013, a year before marijuana became legal for personal use in Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain report uses data gathered from dozens of law-enforcement, health-care and other agencies. It cites several Colorado news stories: stuffed animals filled with marijuana, 7.2 pounds of marijuana-infused Halloween candy, and a 10 percent increase in the crime rate in Denver.

Of the roughly $63.4 million in taxes raised by marijuana sales, $22 million went to enforcement, $29.9 million to schools and $6.6 million to local government.

Colorado has 322 retail pot stories, 397 cultivation sites, 98 infusion businesses and 16 testing facilities. In addition, there are 505 dispensaries and 748 cultivation sites for medical marijuana.

State Issue 3 in Ohio is a proposed constitutional amendment calling for legalization of marijuana for recreational use for those 21 or older and medicinal use for those with documented ailments. The proposal would limit commercial pot cultivation to sites owned by 10 investment groups that are funding the campaign. Marijuana sales would be taxed at all levels, with proceeds mainly going to local governments.

 

This article was authored by Alan Johnson and was originally published by the Columbus Dispatch. Mr. Johnson is the state government reporter at the newspaper.

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