The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area released its third annual report this week. The organization has been tracking the impact of marijuana legalization in Colorado since the state first legalized the drug for medical use in 2000, passed legislation to allow dispensaries beginning in 2009–which spawned a commercial marijuana industry–and legalized pot for recreational use in 2012. The 2015 report shows that by 2013, Colorado marijuana use was nearly double the national usage rate. The state ranked 3rd in the nation for youth use in 2013, up from 14th in 2006; 2nd in the nation for young adult use in 2013, up from 8th in 2006; and 5th in the nation for adults, up from 8th in 2006.
Drug-related school expulsions, most of which are marijuana-related, far exceed school expulsions for alcohol use. Note the sudden jump in drug expulsions that began in 2009 when Colorado allowed a commercial marijuana industry to emerge. Total school suspensions and expulsions rose from 3,736 by the end of the 2008-2009 school year to 5,249 by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
Marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado also began rising with the introduction and growth of the commercial marijuana industry in 2009. While total State wide fatalities decreased between 2006 and 2014, marijuana-related fatalities increased over that time.
Colorado marijuana-related emergency room visits increased to 18,255 in in 2014.
Marijuana-related hospitalizations have nearly quintupled since Colorado first legalized marijuana for medical use. Again, note the surge starting in 2009 when growers, processors, and dispensaries were first authorized, and a commercial industry began developing extensive marijuana products such as edibles, vape pens, and butane hash oils (BHO) to attract new customers. BHO has elevated THC levels to the highest seen in the nation; some contain 75 percent to 100 percent THC.
Although there is no data to document whether the increase in homelessness in Denver and other Colorado cities is marijuana-related, those who provide services to the homeless report that many say they relocated to Colorado because of marijuana’s legality.
In Colorado, marijuana is not available in about three-fourths of the state. Of a total 321 local jurisdictions, 228 (71 percent) ban all forms of marijuana businesses; 67 (21 percent) allow both medical and recreational marijuana businesses; and 26 (8 percent) allow only medical or recreational marijuana businesses.