Colorado Continues to Prove that Cannabis Legalization Works
The first two states to legalize adult-use cannabis were Colorado and Washington. Colorado was the first to roll out cannabis sales in January 2014, and is therefore the public policy 'litmus test' for the rest of the country.
Cannabis opponents made a lot of doomsday predictions leading up to legalization in Colorado. Kevin Sabet suggested that for every one dollar that the cannabis industry brought in to Colorado, there would be 10 times the 'social costs.'
Fortunately the sky has not dropped in Colorado – quite the contrary. Responsible adults have been consuming cannabis there legally for several years now, and the sky is exactly where it was prior to the 2012 Election.
That has led some opponents to move on to the 'let’s wait and see what happens' rhetoric. The foot-dragging method can be very effective at maintaining the status quo but only to a point.
If you are talking to a cannabis opponent or someone on the fence about cannabis and they try to say that we need to see how legalization works out, you can point out that cannabis has been legal in Colorado since 2012, and new reports prove that legalization is working.
What about adolescent use?
A 'go-to' talking point for cannabis opponents when legalization is discussed is that legalization will lead to a massive spike in youth consumption.
However, that has not been the case in Colorado. A recent report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that past-month cannabis use by adolescents has not changed since legalization.
This is true for both the number of adolescents reporting to consume cannabis, as well as the frequency of use. Colorado's adolescent consumption rate is nearly identical to the national average according to the report.
Among Colorado adolescents, past-month cannabis use is LOWER than past-month alcohol use according to the recent report.
If there was going to be a spike in youth consumption rates, we would have seen it by now. The recent report is the most comprehensive look at legalization to date in America, and the math is clear: opponents' claims that there would be a stoned youth epidemic are false.
Cannabis use rates are up among people over 50
The same report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that cannabis consumption rates among people over 50 are increasing, and by quite a bit. Compared to 15 years ago, the consumption rate in this age group has tripled.
Older Coloradoans consuming cannabis is a good thing. Cannabis has been found to help treat all types of ailments that increase with age, such as chronic pain and hypertension.
This trend in Colorado mirrors the trend in other states that allow legal cannabis sales. Older people are less likely to want to jump through the hoops of an unregulated market.
However, when they are allowed to frequent a licensed, regulated cannabis outlet and experience a purchase process that is similar to alcohol, history is showing that many will do so.
Daily or near-daily cannabis use among adults in Colorado is much lower than daily or near-daily alcohol or tobacco use.
I'm hopeful that as time goes by, more and more adults replace alcohol with cannabis, given the fact that cannabis has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. I'm not knocking alcohol, but from a purely public health standpoint, it would be much better for society if adults were consuming cannabis rather than alcohol.
Cannabis sales set a new record in Colorado in 2016
The numbers are in for 2016, and total cannabis sales in Colorado set a new record, smashing the one billion dollar barrier, selling over $1.3 billion worth of cannabis in 2016.
That translates to almost $200 million in taxes that are funding all types of projects, from college scholarships to housing homeless Colorado citizens.
In every measurable way cannabis legalization is working in Colorado, and it will work in other states that allow it too. Anyone who says otherwise needs to put their opinions aside and look at the math objectively.
Cannabis reform is sweeping across America, and Colorado has led the way. Other states have followed suit, but Colorado will always be looked upon as 'the test' for cannabis legalization, and Colorado is passing that test right now with flying colors.
Should states be allowed to create their own cannabis laws?