Colorado’s Marijuana Experiment: How’s That Working for You?

Every since Colorado and Washington (state) recently made the recreational use of marijuana legal, I have been keeping an eye out for the ramifications (if any) of these decisions. Admittedly I was skeptical at the time (and still am) of the wisdom of allowing this. From the limited returns of information I have seen so far, my skepticism has been justified, however I admit the jury is still out.

Marijuana-leaf_sized

How does such an ordinary looking plant cause so much strife?

I don’t follow this issue closely, but when I see articles about it I check them out as a matter of interest. The first article I noticed was a month or so ago, and I reported on it in one of my News Roundups. “Welfare Cash for Weed in Colorado.” This bothered me on a fundamental level, because I am vehemently opposed to being forced to pay for someone else’s recreational choices. Here’s an analogy. Let’s say I represent the government, and I am bigger and stronger than you, the regular citizen. I come up to you, take your wallet, and remove enough money for Bob to go to the movies, because he can’t afford to, and give that money to Bob. You are an avowed atheist, and Bob chooses to go see the movie God’s Not Dead, with what was formerly your money. Would this be okay with you? (Apparently it’s okay with some of the lawmakers in Colorado.)

Now there are more reports and studies coming out that we can use to see what impact the new laws in Colorado have upon the citizens of that state. Over at “The Daily Signal” there is a report that “Traffic Fatalities of Marijuana-Positive Drivers On Rise In Colorado.” Here are some of the findings, according to a peer-reviewed study, looking at Colorado highway fatalities since they legalized medical marijuana in 2009.

  • An increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado since 2009
  • An increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado compared to non-“medical marijuana” states since 2009
  • Alcohol-related fatalities remained the same

Related studies show that overall, highway fatalities have decreased in Colorado during that time, however, as you can see, fatalities related to marijuana usage have increased. Keep in mind, these results are only from a period between 2009-2011, after the state legalized medical marijuana. It will be interesting to see the results following the state’s legalization of recreational use in 2012. Here are the study’s results:

In Colorado, since mid-2009 when medical marijuana became commercially available and prevalent, the trend became positive in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive (change in trend, 2.16 (0.45), p<0.0001); in contrast, no significant changes were seen in NMMS [Non-medical marijuana states]. For both Colorado and NMMS, no significant changes were seen in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were alcohol-impaired. [emphasis mine]

The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact” is a comprehensive study of the impact of marijuana usage in Colorado during a period of time before 2009 (early medical marijuana era), 2009 to present (medical marijuana expansion era) and 2012 to present (recreational marijuana era). Anyone interested in the subject should take a look at this study to see the trends in several different areas. One of the implications of this study is the rise of the usage of marijuana by under-aged teenagers. They report that:

In 2012, 10.47 percent of Colorado youth ages 12 to 17 were considered current marijuana users compared to 7.55 percent nationally. Colorado ranked fourth in the nation, and was 39 percent higher than the national average.

It seems to me that overall the trends aren’t looking good for the experiment of legalizing pot in Colorado. It may be that the citizens of that state will have to pay a heavy price for being “guinea pigs.” However, I am willing to admit that it is still early and additional data needs to be gathered before we have a better understanding of the implications. It seems to me however that according to the early trends, it ain’t lookin’ so hot.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

H/T: Wintery Knight

More resources:

Marijuana: science, not hype, will clear the haze

Marijuana Is Harmful: Debunking 7 Myths Arguing It’s Fine

7 Harmful Side Effects Pot Legalization Has Caused in Colorado

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6 Comments

  1. It seems to me that you’re emphasizing the wrong statistics. Of COURSE fatalities related to marijuana are going to go up after legalization. The important thing is that OVERALL fatailities are decreasing. What the numbers show is that, of the traffic fatalities that do occur, more of them than before involved people who tested positive for marijuana or where marijuana was found in one or more involved vehicles (which BTW is NOT proof that marijuana caused or was involved in the collision – the way they make these statistics is misleading.) BUT, overall, there have been fewer traffic fatalities. This is a positive picture. It means that, overall, people are driving more safely and having fewer fatal collisions. The fact that more fatal collisions than before can be incidentally associated somehow with marijuana is an artifact of the fact that more people in the state are using marijuana. If overall fatalities were ALSO rising, then it’d be a cause for concern.

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    • Hello chemire and thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. Before I address your comments regarding the traffic fatalities, I would like to state that I noticed you did not comment on:

      1. people spending their welfare benefits on marijuana for recreational purposes,
        nor did you comment on
      2. the increase in the number of teenagers who smoke marijuana.

      So, if I were to grant you that there is no cause for concern that marijuana related fatalities increased since the expansion of the legality of medical marijuana in Colorado since 2009 (I do think your argument is flawed and will address it in further commentary), would you agree that there is cause for concern about issues 1 & 2 listed above?

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      • Not necessarily. I didn’t comment on those two mainly because they come down to differences of opinion. I don’t personally mind my tax dollars being used for weed. You do. It’s your right to mind just as much as it is my right to not mind. So I didn’t see much point in mentioning it. Since you bring it up, though, there it is. And as far as teenagers smoking cannabis, to be honest, while I would never encourage a normal, healthy teenager to use any drug, I also think it’s a parent’s responsibility to deal with that sort of thing. Surely as a conservative you don’t want more ‘nanny state’ type stuff going on? Also to be perfectly frank, based on my own experience, if teenagers are going to be using any drug, I think marijuana is probably less harmful in the lung run than the vast majority of the other drugs they could be using. Again, I agree, no teenage drug use would be better – I in fact would argue for a more restrictive age limit than most people would, since most evidence shows the brain doesn’t finish developing until 25. But again, if it’s going to happen, better weed than booze or tobacco or meth. I also have to note that a LOT of people have used cannabis in their teens without their lives being noticeably damaged thereafter, so I would like more and better data about the actual effects of marijuana use by people younger than 25. Most of the studies which have been done have the unfortunate trait that they were done to prove a point rather than in an unbiased pursuit of knowledge – and I do not only mean the anti-marijuana studies. This field is desperately short of good, solid data, in large part because of how difficult the Federal government makes it to study marijuana in the first place.

        Basically, what I’m trying to say is that marijuana may not be a perfect, all-curing wonder plant like some people make it out to be, but I also think the concerns surrounding its legalization are wildly exaggerated. Remember that the plant was legal for MUCH more of American and world history than it was illegal. It didn’t destroy the country before, so why would it now? That is not to say, however, that it is totally harmless or could never be abused or misused to negative effect. Any drug can – including alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other legal, socially accepted drugs.

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        • ^” less harmful in the lung run”

          Now that’s as Freudian a typo as I’ve made in a while. I meant ‘long run’ of course. LOL!

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
        • Thanks again. chemire, for continuing to engage in conversation. At this point, I’d like to try to sum up what I understand to be your position regarding the issues I pointed out in my article that may be of concern to the general legalization of marijuana.

          1. Welfare recipients using taxpayer funded benefits to smoke marijuana recreationally: this to you is of no concern. “I don’t personally mind my tax dollars being used for weed.” (That wasn’t exactly my point. My overall point is: why am I forced by the government to fund anyone’s recreational activities at all?)
          2. Increase in marijuana related fatalities: this is of no concern. The statistics are skewed because marijuana is now legal and overall, the fatalities are down.

          3. Teenage use of marijuana has increased. This is of no concern because A. Parents need to do a better job. B. If a teen is going to do drugs or alcohol anyway, marijuana is the safest option.

          Please let me know if I have misrepresented any of your views. Thanks.

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    • chemre, this is in response to your comment on the rise of marijuana related traffic fatalities. You said:

      What the numbers show is that, of the traffic fatalities that do occur, more of them than before involved people who tested positive for marijuana or where marijuana was found in one or more involved vehicles (which BTW is NOT proof that marijuana caused or was involved in the collision – the way they make these statistics is misleading.)

      However, the second study I linked to in my article also covered this area, and here is what that study says:
      :
      • Traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana have
      increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012.
      • The majority of driving-under-the-influence-of-drugs arrests involve marijuana
      and 25 to 40 percent were marijuana alone.
      • Toxicology reports with positive marijuana results for driving under the
      influence have increased 16 percent from 2011 to 2013.

      Notice the first statistic mentions that the operators tested positive for marijuana, not that marijuana was merely found in their vehicle. A 100% increase is notable wouldn’t you agree?

      You also stated:

      BUT, overall, there have been fewer traffic fatalities. This is a positive picture. It means that, overall, people are driving more safely and having fewer fatal collisions. The fact that more fatal collisions than before can be incidentally associated somehow with marijuana is an artifact of the fact that more people in the state are using marijuana. If overall fatalities were ALSO rising, then it’d be a cause for concern.

      It seems to me that A. because the overall fatalities have decreased, but in contrast B. marijuana related fatalities has increased it seems to me that makes those fatalities even more glaring.

      Finally, please note that I admitted in my article:

      I am willing to admit that it is still early and additional data needs to be gathered before we have a better understanding of the implications.

      I believe we both agree on that point.

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      Reply

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