New Colorado Report Extinguishes Big Myths About Legalization

legalization

Colorado has just released a report about its experiment with legalization – and it’s glowing.

In celebration of a very special 4/20 (20-4 equals 16 so this being 4/20/2016 is, like, “BOOM”)(and yes, this is a nod to pothead logic), Colorado has released a report outlining the social and medical results of the legalization of marijuana.

So what happened? Children lighting up in alarming numbers? Cannabis overdoses quadrupling? Pot addiction going through the roof? Drug-related crime skyrocketing?

Nope.

Colorado is two years into its legalization experiment and and it all seems to be on a nice high note (also known as “sativa”). In fiscal 2015 weed taxes added $70M to the state’s coffers (eclipsing revenue from alcohol taxes ), in calendar 2015 the marijuana industry generated close to $1B in sales, and everywhere you look legal marijuana inc is saving small towns, fueling real estate booms and creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors. Champion athletes are coming out to endorse it and America’s big buzzing worlds of tech and entertainment, arguably our nation’s largest (or at least most heralded) exports, are practically fueled by it.

And now this new report should be a resounding declaration that it’s time to stop the hypocritical prohibition of the sticky icky and pick up the peace pipe. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence to the benefits of legalization and this new download of mostly positive social information about how the experiment will affect citizens, there are still a few hurdles — and a few very loud men and women ready to keep propping them up as each falls.

The “Save The Children” Lie

It should be intuitively obvious to everyone that if you legalize marijuana for adults, more children will use marijuana because the message that it’s dangerous will be blunted.” – Congressman Andy Harris, Md., as to the big reason he opposed DC’s decriminalization of weed.

Congressman, as a doctor (and specifically a man calling for MORE research )(as if a century worth isn’t enough) as to the positive effects of weed, it’s surprising you can base a very serious policy issue on human intuition. And just for the record, your intuition is wrong — according to the new report, despite legalization teen use hasn’t gone up.  We don’t need to mention that perhaps this man of science and logic is making such an rotten statement against the legalization of weed because big pharma is one of his biggest campaign boosters (though we will). But according to this new report, use among high-schoolers in Colorado has gone from 23% to 20% between 2005-2014.

In high school it was so much easier to get weed than beer. To snag some Mad Dog 2020, you needed a fake ID or a trip to a liquor store where they take your money through bulletproof glass. But anybody would sell you weed, especially because it’s illegal whether you sell to 21-year-olds or 12-year-olds, especially because kids will buy whatever swag you wanna sell, the same way that during prohibition people overpaid for rotgut rebottled in bottles with high-end labels. The legalization and regulation of the sale of marijuana makes it tougher for kids to get it. That’s based on intuition as well but certainly a much more logical one.

So what else you got?

Legalization Will Lead to a Spike in Crime

Legalization of marijuana would increase demand for the drug and almost certainly exacerbate drug-related crime, as well as cause a myriad of unintended but predictable consequences.” – Charles “Cully” Stimson, Heritage Foundation “journalist”

To start, I’ve been able to find zero actual studies that support this hypothesis. Just like reason number 1, this one is based purely on conjecture. But let’s entertain it for a second. What does the new report say?

Well, to start off marijuana-related arrests have gone down about 46% in Colorado.

One of the biggest components of the crime argument is the hypothesis that legalization will lead to cartels gaining legal legitimacy in drug dealing, like when the MAFIA took over Las Vegas and now their kids get reality shows.

But again, when it comes to organized crime, the legalization of weed is on par with the end of prohibition. In 2015, the DEA reported a 23% drop in year-on-year marijuana smuggling from Mexico to the U.S. To look at it from another angle, the prohibition of weed was as effective as the prohibition of booze. Everybody still drank granddaddy’s cough medicine; they simply paid more and the only people selling it were criminals.

Some have pointed to the recent rise in crime in Denver as proof positive that legalization leads to more crime. But go to the people who should actually know, the team at the Denver Post, and it looks like the rise in crime has nothing to do with legal weed.

The police still don’t like it though. Why? Per an AP article following the 2012 legalization: “Officers said they can no longer search a person, car or property based on the smell of marijuana.” I personally know of at least 8 situations when that was used as the excuse for an unconstitutional search by law enforcement. Legalization would provide one less tool in the arsenal of citation-hungry, stereotype-happy po-lice.

It’s Good for Tuberculosis/And Even halitosis

It’s much more potent marijuana, which may explain why we’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in admission to emergency rooms and treatment programs for marijuana.” – Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

According to the report, 44% more people were admitted to the ER for Marijuana-based emergencies since legalization, with accidental ingestion and use-based paranoia numbers going up. However, experts say that’s misleading. According to the report, the stigma that had previously been associated with marijuana use has also been lifted and, as such, people may simply be more willing to call the hospital and admit they think they can’t breathe and their wife is a dragon because they ate some edibles instead of just sitting in their room shaking until it passed.

For example, my wife has been a veterinary technician in animal hospitals all over the country. She can tell when people bring in their dogs for accidental pot ingestion because she’s seen it so many times. In places like our current home, Wyoming, where it’s still heavily demonized, the owners will hem and haw, say they don’t know what their dog might have eaten. In Colorado, people can simply say “My dog got into my stash.” And they can be treated much quicker and easier.

A negative from the report, and the biggest danger legalization opponents constantly point to, is the higher potency of the drug. And it’s true, just like any psychoactive substance, from alcohol to aspirin to NyQuil to nicotine, the more you ingest the more dangerous. But despite the higher THC levels one medical fact holds true — nobody has ever died from marijuana overdose. It is in fact an impossibility, on par with overdosing from eating too many bananas.

Speaking of bananas, there is one final, overarching conclusion you can derive from the report …

All Opposing Arguments Are Merely Blowing Smoke

I’m not even going to dignify the gateway drug argument except to point out that it’s been exposed as one of the most flawed theories of causation ever expounded (here’s a quick explanation: gatewayers say that most hard drug users smoked weed before so it is therefore a gateway drug; likely most of those people either smoked cigarettes before, or took aspirin, or drank coffee before as well so are nicotine, acetylsalicylic acid and caffeine also gateway drugs?).

Currently marijuana is legal for recreational use in 4 states and DC. Twenty-four states have legal medicinal marijuana and the dank has been decriminalized in 20 states. In California I had a medicinal marijuana prescription for nagging pain from a severe shoulder injury. It felt like my deltoid was going to fall off if I spent all day writing or working at a computer, much less surfing or snowboarding or going for the long, life-affirming hikes and climbs my existence revolves around. But I’ve always hated opioids; never much cared for popping Vicodin, Oxy, any of the other pills I was given for various surgeries (I always have half-full bottles with several prescriptions left after doctor visits because I’d rather gut it out than pop those nasty little white pills). So I got on the medical weed. And I would go into the dispensary and wait in line behind the high-powered executive, the aging school marm, the cancer patient and of course the irrepressible stoner. Because it was simply a medication and all walks of life partake. Some more liberally than others but how is that different from the endless list of substances currently consider acceptable?

Why Should You Care?

So why does weed legalization matter? Because this nation was supposedly built on logic and science and personal freedom and the prohibition of weed goes against those, along with all the other problems currently plaguing our great nation: laws made on conjecture instead of fact; the encroachment of personal freedoms for no good reason except fear of change from old white people who never got it in the first place; and the demonization of arbitrary people and things at the hands of the misinformed and the lobbied. Yes, gay rights and Planned Parenthood and racial profiling are more important than whether we can legally puff some herb (though if you looked into the benefits of adding hemp to the nation’s stable of crops or the financial benefits Colorado has been reaping which would lead to more tax income nationwide and even create decent-paying jobs for an all-American product, there’s certainly en economic importance). But in general the fight for weed legalization is just another battle in this war against the forces of Old and Evil, as the good Dr. Thompson once called it. And this is a battle that’s raging right now, a battle we’re getting so damn close to winning.

In 2016 there have been 16 states with medicinal marijuana laws up for consideration. It passed in Pennsylvania. Is pending in Florida (one bill), Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina and Tennessee. And for the unfortunate sufferers of cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma or arthritis, if you live in West Virginia, Wisconsin, Utah, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Indiana, Georgia, and Florida (in another bill) you’re stuck with drugs backed by lobbyists and packaged in nice white capsules that benefit massive global conglomerates, drugs that seemingly always get recalled due to class action lawsuits or lead to opioid addictions but are backed by enough high-powered lawyers that the companies build such frivolities into their cost-benefit projections.

The states considering recreational legalization of marijuana this year are Arizona, California, possibly Florida, Maine, possibly Massachusetts, possibly Michigan and Missouri, Nevada, Rhode Island and Vermont.

As more states legalize, the more pressure there will be on the federal government to overturn an atavistic law that has done nothing but put kids in jail; forced people to take drugs sold by moneyed interests that are ineffective and in some cases downright dangerous; and turn into criminals Americans who just want to unwind with a substance that doesn’t lead to cirrhosis, broken families, death and/or violence.

According to the FDA (the government organization that decides what drugs are safe i.e. which drugs sold by pharmaceutical companies can be sold to people for astronomical prices) marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, defined as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”

Other Schedule I drugs? Heroin and ecstasy. That’s right, at this time the government considers weed as dangerous as heroin.

Schedule II drugs include OxyContin, dilaudid and fentanyl, all of which are available by prescription and are therefore considered less dangerous than herbalz. Drugs like Klonopin and Valium are Schedule III, considered even less dangerous.

So this isn’t just about whether potheads should be able to blaze up; it’s an issue of national safety, where people who trust authority will think taking Valium and Xanax is considerably safer than smoking the ooo-eee.

Which is why this new report is so important. Because there are fewer things more dangerous than misinformation backed by pseudoscience and fear-powered lies; this report eviscerates all of that. And the sooner America can legalize arguably the most harmless mood-altering substance in the world, the sooner another victory for science over prejudice, fact over conjecture, of personal freedoms over overzealous law enforcement goons can be won.

The newest Colorado report is the strongest weapon the side of good has had at its disposal yet in a law first put into place to racially profile Mexicans.

No doubt more such weapons will come but what more will it take? Come on, people, it’s time to put this idiotic prohibition to rest.

Comments

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Ryan Ariano

Born and raised in Baltimore, Ryan has been kicking around the west since the first Clinton White House. Having worked all over SoCal in the surf industry, Hollywood, marketing, journalism and finance, he now hangs his hat just outside Jackson Hole where he can fulfill an addiction to ascending and descending mountains.

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