U.S.: What Happened When States Legalized Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
When the sale of marijuana for recreational use became legal in Colorado and Washington last year -- and in Oregon this year -- a few predictions, both good and bad, were made about the outcome. Here's what has actually happened so far.
• No increase in teen use: Opponents of legalization claimed young people would flock to weed if the legal penalties were removed. That hasn't happened, reports Daniel Dale at The Star. Major studies have found no increase in teen use in states the legalized medical marijuana; in Colorado, fewer students said they used pot after legalization than before.
• Tax windfall: Colorado has taken in more than $86 million in cannabis taxes and fees this year, far more than for alcohol. Washington state is predicting $1 billion in marijuana taxes over the next four years. "All that money that was going to criminals and the hands of cartels is now being sent toward legitimate taxpaying businesses," said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project.
• Plummeting arrests: "In Colorado, marijuana-related arrests have fallen about 90 percent ... that's our focus," said Pau Armenian, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
• Freaking out on edibles: Overeager children and adults freaked themselves out by consuming too much marijuana at once; while pot is non-toxic and you'll always be OK, it can take you for a scary ride if you're not accustomed and dose high.
• No banking: Marijuana is now big business, but the big banks won't touch the money. Cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, even in states where it is legal, and bankers fear prosecution.
• Driving high?: Law enforcement types of tried to convince us of a "sharp increase" in "marijuana-related" traffic deaths. But experts say the presence of cannabis in a driver's system is not evidence that it caused a crash, or even that the drive was impaired at all by marijuana at the time. Colorado hasn't seen a significant increase in the overall number of traffic deaths, and traffic fatalities have dropped in states that legalized medical marijuana.