Rocky Mountain High


One of the reasons I’m a big supporter of federalism is that it allows individual states to try out new policies, and the rest of us can stand back and gauge the results to see how well they work. (The effect of this is negated somewhat by the fact that liberals tend to force unsuccessful policies they like on the rest of the countries, and crush successful ones that they don’t like, but the principle still stands.) One such example is Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012. Liberals and libertarians praised this move, stating it would bring an end to the black market, keep people out of jail, and raise tons of money for the state budget. Their predictions had a whiff of “rainbows and unicorns” to them, but we all tried to be optimistic.

So, five years later, how has the legalization policy been working out? According to a new analysis published in USA Today, not so great:

In the years since [legalization], Colorado has seen an increase in marijuana related traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room visits. The marijuana black market has increased in Colorado, not decreased. And, numerous Colorado marijuana regulators have been indicted for corruption.

So, lots of unpleasant side effects. But what about all that tax revenue we were promised?

In 2012, we were promised funds from marijuana taxes would benefit our communities, particularly schools. Dr. Harry Bull, the Superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools, one of the largest school districts in the state, said, “So far, the only thing that the legalization of marijuana has brought to our schools has been marijuana.”

In fiscal year 2016, marijuana tax revenue resulted in $156,701,018. The total tax revenue for Colorado was $13,327,123,798, making marijuana only 1.18% of the state’s total tax revenue. The cost of marijuana legalization in public awareness campaigns, law enforcement, healthcare treatment, addiction recovery, and preventative work is an unknown cost to date.

Okay, so there’s not a whole lot of tax money coming in from this. But hey, at least all those poor minorities aren’t getting thrown in jail for smoking dope, right? Oh, wait…

According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, arrests in Colorado of black and Latino youth for marijuana possession have increased 58% and 29% respectively after legalization. This means that Black and Latino youth are being arrested more for marijuana possession after it became legal.

Furthermore, a vast majority of Colorado’s marijuana businesses are concentrated in neighborhoods of color. Leaders from these communities, many of whom initially voted to legalize recreational marijuana, often speak out about the negative impacts of these businesses.

Sadly, blacks and latinos aren’t the only group being harmed by this change, as drug use among children and teens is rising sharply.

Since legalizing marijuana, Colorado’s youth marijuana use rate is the highest in the nation, 74% higher than the national average, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Report.

So, to recap: more people being killed, hurt and thrown in jail, more kids addicted to drugs, very little tax revenue, and still a black market. Awesome.

Up here in WA state, where we legalized pot around the same time Colorado did, the local media (which is almost entirely left-leaning and full of legalization supporters) has been remarkably tight-lipped about looking into or reporting on the effects of legalization. But what we do know is that drug-related car accidents and youth drug use are up. Scuzzy cannabis shops have opened up all over the place, mostly in the seediest and poorest parts of town, where the last things people need are more drug dealing and property values going down even further. A short while back, I attended a school board meeting at which my county’s School Superintendent said that the last few years have seen unbelievable increases in drug use at his schools, where the kids overwhelmingly view legalization as approval to use the drug. Oh, and taxing the pot has brought in so little revenue that we can’t even afford to fund our schools.

Look, I get that some people support legalization purely as a personal liberty issue, or simply because they want to get high without going to jail. Fine. That’s a discussion worth having. But for decades now, social liberals have been pushing utopian myths about how great things will be if we just legalize pot and other drugs, and five years into doing so in these two states, none of them have been proven to be even remotely true. If anything, the reality has been the exact opposite. So can we talk about this issue as it is, not as the left wishes it could be?

10 comments to Rocky Mountain High

  • Raoul Ortega

    I voted for it here in Colorado because of the hypocrisy surrounding the issue. I worked downtown Denver and got to see the “medical marijuana” scam in action. Still got them, because those people seem to have the idea that they need to get stoned for free.

    The same with the hemp-heads– grow your damn ditchweed and make all the clothes and paper and building materials you want. Funny how there hasn’t been a great demand for that stuff.

    As for this report, I’d like to see a comparison to the end of Prohibition. The same with the arrests– how do those compare to underage possession of alcohol? Up, down, similar?

  • That’s an amazing report …

    As a Denver dweller for 10 years I can share that the dangers surrounding the 16th Street Mall — the downtown hub that’s a draw for visitors and regulars alike — ramped up alarmingly in recent years. Cops now flood the area, which is helping.

    And the smell of pot is often all over, particularly in places like outdoor venues where it’s not ‘technically’ allowed.

    • Yeah, same thing here. Every time I take my kid to the park, I can smell it in the air. The last thing he needs is a contact high to go with his sugar rush.

  • Can’t share at Bacefook. Interesting.

  • It seems to me that the people most adamant about legalizing pot, were either stoners that want their habit made legal, or folks that had something to gain monetarily by it. There were outliers of course, but that seemed to me to be their primary focus.

    I don’t know if it’s just me but does it strike anybody else as weird the almost cult like reverence some people have regarding weed? The clothes with the leaf on them, their obsession with the “lifestyle”… you don’t see people who enjoy beer celebrate it quite in the same way. Most of those folks just grow grow a belly in honor of their love.

  • Penelope27

    The desire to do whatever we want is not freedom but privilege. Freedom is the ability to SELF discipline. There was a time when more people than not understood that, I am one of those that would vote, not so much to have it legalized, but not to have the government make another law for me.