This is a subject that draws divisive comments from critics and proponents alike. This topic is not intended to take either side but instead to point out some of the down sides of legalizing marijuana. When marijuana was legalized in our state of Colorado it was pointed out to us voters how much revenue it would generate but little was said of the possible problems it could cause. Our Governor called it “the great social experiment” and it has lived up to his statement both good and bad. This blog is directed toward the unforeseen hazards that legalization of marijuana creates. In Colorado we have already seen the enormous revenue it brings in and the down side is just surfacing. While the debate continues over whether it should be legal or not this article is not written to take either side but simply to report on what this writer has observed subsequent to legalization.
We live near the small town of Ft. Garland, Colorado, with a population of roughly 433 persons. Since marijuana has become legal in Colorado we have had two marijuana stores open for business and a third one seeking rezoning to be able to both grow and sell from one of our historic buildings. That will be three stores for about 433 residents not including rural customers. There is a community school on the main highway going through the area and there is a marijuana store situated on both sides of the school within legal set back distances. The third store plans to open up next to a historical fort that attracts tourists and visitors from all over our state and around the world.
We have noticed more vagrants in the area and talking to a resident of the town recently I was told that he is now regularly shooing vagrants out of his yard. I have heard on the Denver news channels that the increase in homeless and vagrants in that area is also significantly on the increase which is straining their ability to provide social services to those in need. This influx of people which seem drawn to legal marijuana puts a serious drain on not only social services but emergency services as well.
The path to legalization started with legalization of ‘medical’ marijuana and then to full legalization. This writer understands that medically it does have benefits for some diseases or illnesses. When it went to full legalization it seems that keeping up with regulating it is an ongoing struggle for our state. The marijuana industry is growing so fast that regulators seem to struggle to keep up. In one aspect or another it is in our news every day. Today the news channel was reporting that recreational marijuana is being sold with mold that causes respiratory issues and it needs to be more carefully tested like medical marijuana is tested. With all the shops opening that is going to present a regulatory challenge and it seems that regulation is falling further and further behind.
One area that is particularly challenging is consumable marijuana products which look remarkably like normal candy, cookies etc. The new industry and state agencies have been struggling for months on how it can be marketed so people can tell the difference between the two. The industry doesn’t want the increased burden of special labels and the state wants to stop children and adults from consuming more THC (hash oil) than is allowable and ending up in the emergency room. It is being put into multiple food products with no definitive label warnings or identification to tell consumers of the potential risks involved or how much THC they are eating. Extracting THC from marijuana has also resulted in several residential house fires by do it yourself people. The consumables have been showing up in our schools also.
Marijuana is not allowed to be smoked in a public place and is easy to detect due to the unique smell. I’m not sure how they can enforce using consumable marijuana in public places because it mimics normal food products and is in most cases indistinguishable except for the THC. Also the only way to be sure if a person is driving under the influence of marijuana is by taking a blood test. That requires more effort than blowing into a breathalyzer along side the road. The officer must have probable cause in ordering a blood test and no effective road side blood test is currently available. A recent study has determined that a person smoking marijuana within the last week is twice as likely to be involved in an accident as a non user. In large cities within our state the problems or down sides are much different than in a rural area or small town like in our area.
Since it has been legalized in our state two adjoining states where it is still illegal have filed suit against our state. A third state is contemplating joining that suit. In their states it is still illegal and their difficulty in keeping it from coming across their borders has increased their financial burden of enforcing their laws. So while it can be legally purchased here it is creating problems for adjoining states where it is not legal and our neighbors are not happy.
I’m sure some will choose to misread this topic and use it as a platform to either promote national legalization of marijuana or denounce making it legal. That is not the intended purpose of this article but instead to consider not only the large revenue enhancement but also realize there is an equally important down side to making it legal and therefore weigh both options. This writer does not profess to be an expert but I am writing on what I hear, what I read and from what I have seen myself. It seems to me that the Colorado social experiment should be closely studied from all aspects by those states considering legalization. It should be an open discussion that involves both the positive and negative aspects and then and only then a decision should be made. Regulations should be ready to implement when and if it becomes legal and not ‘as you go’ regulations which take months to formulate and enact.
For the record I myself have never used or had the desire to use marijuana but I hold nothing against those who do and believe it is a matter of personal choice. Once it is legalized it is off and running at remarkable speeds and playing catch up at that point is a real race.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their mountain lifestyle check out the McElmurray's Mountain Retreat.
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