It’s now approximately two years since the most radical overhaul in the history of Colorado’s marijuana law went live. Which means that by this time, there should be plenty of evidence to support those who insisted the legalisation of pot would be about the end of days…anarchy…a public health crisis.
"In many ways, the first two years of marijuana legalization has been a testament to Coloradans and our ability to work together,” that’s the opinion of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, which admittedly is somewhat on the vague, diplomatic side. He’s technically not saying it’s definitely been a good thing or a bad thing as of yet, which is to a large extent because two years really isn’t long in the grand scheme of things.
But in terms of what the actual facts and statistics are at least beginning to tell us, which side of the fence do things land on - positive or negative?
A Booming Industry
Well, first of all we know that while $700 million was raked in by the medical and recreational marijuana industry in Colorado in 2014, this figure was obliterated in less than 10 months in 2015. Or in other words, the industry is booming and has already started contributing more in taxation than alcohol sales. More jobs, better economic performance and more tax dollars coming in than ever before can hardly be argued as anything but a good thing, right?
Most would agree, but there are some hard-liners who insist that things are growing too quickly. They say that commercialisation is getting out of hand, promoting the wrong message to youngsters and getting more people hooked on weed all the time. Which would be all well and good, if it wasn’t for the fact that evidence paints no such picture.
No Upward Spiral
Contrary to the predictions of so many, there’s currently absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that pot use in general across Colorado is on the up. At the time of the last official survey, around 20% of those 18 and over said they’d smoked pot in the past year. This is largely unchanged from the way things were prior to legalisation, meaning the huge spike in smoker numbers we were warned about just hasn’t happened.
Of course, the argument from those on the critical side of the fence is that not enough time has passed and the problem will show its true colours further down the line. But at the same time, supporters state that if the state as a whole was to suddenly dive into freely-available marijuana, it would have done so immediately after legalisation when it was still something of a novelty.
Declining Drug Busts
Last but not least, it’s getting to the point now where crimes regarding marijuana have been pretty much wiped out in Colorado’s courts. Back in 2010, around 11,000 marijuana law violation charges were recorded in the state. In 2015, the number by the end of October barely breached 2,000.
At the same time, serious crime is said to be very slightly up across the state, but not to such an extent that it can be directly linked with the new marijuana laws. And of course, less time wasted on pointless pot busts means more police time available to devote to more serious crimes.
Which pretty much draws a line under most concerns to date – all of which have for the time being at least proved to be unfounded. Some insist that more time is needed to tell, but as already mentioned, if Colorado didn’t go off the rails the moment weed was legalised, why would it suddenly do so a decade further down the line?
It wouldn’t, and so chances are, it won’t!