The Cannabis State Of The Union
How Legalization Of Recreational Cannabis Affected Colorado
In 2012, the state of Colorado became the first in the USA to legalize marijuana for recreational usage. Medical marijuana has been legal (under certain conditions) for some time here and has given relief to a great many suffering people.
Recreational marijuana, however, has proven quite another matter. At the time of Amendment 64’s proposal, the attention of the nation at large narrowed in upon Colorado, and opinion on the matter was vociferously divided.
Some claimed that it was Colorado to legalize recreational marijuana, the state would revert to a ‘Zombieland‘ in which residents either drifted around aimlessly, stoned out of their minds or went on drug-fueled violent crime sprees (depending upon the particular tastes of the commentator).
Others argued that the legalization of recreational marijuana would entirely eliminate the black market – thus reducing crime – while making stress and anxiety issues a thing of the past.
In the latter view, Colorado became a wealthy, mellow, crime-free wonderland. What nobody expected to happen when the amendment was duly passed was for everything to stay pretty much the same. But that, on the surface of it, appears to have been the case thus far.
Is There Cannabis Crimes?
Of course, it is foolish to state that nothing at all in Colorado has changed since the legalization of recreational marijuana. We have seen certain social and economic changes which promise to ultimately affect the state’s fortunes as a whole.
But on a cultural and individual level, one could be forgiven for thinking that nothing had happened. Neither the paradise nor the horror story has emerged from Amendment 64.
Colorado continues much as it always has, albeit with a new string to its bow and an interesting new current working away beneath the surface. One of the major issues surrounding the legalization of recreational marijuana was that of either increased or decreased crime rates.
Naturally, crime statistics have dropped since the police stopped arresting people for marijuana offenses, but other than this little seems to have changed. The intoxicated driving and crime sprees predicted by those anti the legalization have not materialized – but neither has the elimination of the black market and mellowing of attitudes promised by the pros.
In all fairness, the end result of this one is a positive – but the figures are confusing. The crime rate has dropped, but it is unclear how much this is simply due to the fact that weed is no longer illegal.
Nebraska and Oklahoma claim that Colorado pot is sneaking over their borders (something which is extremely hard to verify), and wish to declare Colorado’s Amendment 64 unconstitutional. However, Colorado keeps exceedingly tight controls over its marijuana industry and can prove it. This one seems to be something of a moot point.
One thing has certainly not happened – Colorado has not suddenly become overrun with stoners. In fact, the cannabis revenue which is being used to educate young people on the topic is having a very positive effect in this regard.
Although this may partly be due to a loss of appeal since the ‘bad‘ factor was taken away, less young Coloradans are using cannabis than prior to its legalization.
It should be noted in the interests of fairness that Colorado did experience a problem with highly potent ‘edibles‘ in the first few months after legalization – but this was swiftly and impressively dealt with by the authorities.
Cannabis, as most who study the stuff in detail are aware, is not particularly addictive. However, some have expressed concerns that ‘Cannabis capitalists‘ may attempt to exploit vulnerable individuals in the same manner that alcohol manufacturers sometimes do and tobacco producers have done in the past.
The recreational cannabis industry is still reasonably young, and subject to some extremely tight regulations – but it is growing fast, and swiftly expanding into new markets. Quite how its marketing and expansion strategies develop remains to be seen, but dubious individuals can take comfort from the fact that both state and federal authorities are keeping a very close eye on the process.
One thing is no doubt: Recreational marijuana has boosted the economy of Colorado. We’re not all suddenly millionaires – far from it – but there have been a number of jobs created, and the taxes generated  by the newly developed industry have proven a boon to the state treasury.
So much money has the marijuana tax brought in – and so fast is the marijuana economy growing – that the state has even been able to cut it without losing much income. The aim behind this cut is to lower the price, thus forcing down black market prices, making the sale of unlicensed marijuana far less financially viable.
Much of the revenue from Colorado’s marijuana has gone into education and mental health initiatives – which is, needless to say, a very positive result.
Let us know what you think.