Colorado has been generating a lot of buzz following its decision to legalize pot. Hell, even the cast of Workaholics are helping support the legalization movement in one way or another.
As you probably know, Colorado recently became the first in the nation to allow recreational marijuana use within its borders. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this decision generated a lot of strong responses. A number of people around the country think Colorado’s move was a smart one.
Recreational marijuana is a whole new industry that can boost tourism, tax revenue and the state’s economy. On the other hand, many are concerned the state’s decision could be a costly one. They believe the legalization of a mind-altering drug may lead to an uptick in crime and drug-related ailments over time. Depending on your demographic and experience with marijuana, this foresight may seem ludicrous or it may seem reasonable.
Citizens of Colorado have been able to purchase marijuana for months, but at this point, neither side can say “I told you so.” Pot has definitely been a booming industry with the state’s newly formed weed cafés busy around the clock. Let me disclose that I am pro-legalization, but I will respect and acknowledge both sides to show where some points of the opposition may be valid/worth considering. The opposition – at least from those who are practical – actually agree the short-term effects are beneficial, but worry about the long-term effects.
Many new consumers are unaware of the plant’s effects or how they will act under the influence of THC. This has led to hospitalization and even death in rare instances. Of course these are extremely rare cases that have virtually zero weight when compared against alcohol, cigarettes, or any other legalized vice.
Here are some of the biggest pros and cons of pot legalization in Colorado.
Any time a mind-altering substance is sold, there’s always a risk that people will use it irresponsibly. Alcohol is the clear example. According to the Center for Disease Control, over one million Americans visit the emergency room because of alcohol each year and around 88,000 alcohol-related deaths occur.
Despite its designation as a gateway drug, marijuana is a powerful substance which can dramatically influence a person’s behavior. At least two deaths have already occurred as a related-result of Colorado’s pot legalization. One occurred when a college student consumed six times the recommended amount of pot-laced baked goods and plunged off a balcony. The second took place when a man shot his wife after eating candy made with marijuana. These are the extremely rare cases mentioned earlier.
As absurd as it may seem to consider these cases as legitimate reasons to keep pot illegal, we need to acknowledge both policy makers and mass media will latch onto, twist, exaggerate, and reference these events in their opposition.
One common way to consume marijuana is through baked goods, as evidenced by the newly opened bakeries in Colorado. Patrons over age 21 can consume pot in cookies, candy and other sweet treats. While this seems harmless enough at first, it could give children and teens the wrong idea about the drug. Some worry that advertising pot sweets makes marijuana seem completely harmless or having a neutral effect. Given the average child’s natural fixation on cookies and candy, this could easily result in stories where irresponsible parents or siblings leave their edibles around the kitchen and younger kids eat it. Even though this scenario is entirely on the shoulders of parents and siblings, it’s still a story that the media would devour.
Along a similar vein, let’s quickly look at how edibles are marketed. You have to be 21 to buy marijuana, but it’s worth noting that tobacco companies cannot manufacture certain flavors of cigarettes out of a fear that it would market the drugs to children. Is it right that tobacco companies can’t sell fruit and candy flavors but pot shops can sell drug-laced bake goods? Let me know what you think about this situation in the comments below.
Perhaps the most obvious perk to pot legalization is the amount of money it can generate. Recreational marijuana is taxed at a much higher rate than medical marijuana, meaning it brings much more revenue to the government. Colorado took in around $11 million in marijuana taxes the first four months pot was legal.
Job Creation and Tourism
As mentioned above, legalizing pot created a whole new industry. Marijuana bakeries and cafés have sprouted up around the state and are booming business. These shops have employees, so their very existence creates jobs and bolsters the state and local economy. According to some reports, the need for recreational marijuana isn’t even close to being met.
We can expect many more shops opening in the future. In addition, the ability to purchase marijuana has attracted droves of tourists to Colorado. These tourists aren’t just buying from pot shops — at the very least they’re also staying in hotels and purchasing food and gas. This opens additional revenue streams for state and local economies.
When legalizing marijuana was first proposed, critics worried it would drive up the crime rate. The fear was that the more the drug was the available, the more people would get high, and in this altered state of mind, they would be at an increased risk of theft, violence or driving under the influence. However, the crime rate in Colorado has actually gone down since the drug was legalized. One possible explanation for this trend is black market pots sales have also decreased. That means there’s also probably a decrease in drug deals and the whole culture of violence surrounding them. Mexico is not happy.
Following the legalization of marijuana in both Colorado and Washington, similar measures have been proposed in other states. Right now, though, many people are looking at Colorado as a test run. If things go well there, other states may follow. But, a “disaster” could mean stricter controls on pot across the country or steps backward. I put disaster in quotation marks because all it takes is a an over-hyped tragedy to crush the spirits of millions of Americans. No matter which way you look at it, a tragic death linked to marijuana is ammunition for the opposition. It’s in our nature to sympathize and the tragedy itself saddens us.
I think a smart move for the branding of pro-legalization is having some type of non-profit providing education and support for the general public, focused on usage in a variety of social settings.