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The Effects of The Decision to Legalize Marijuana in Colorado

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In the United States, by virtue of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis use and possession is illegal under federal law for any reason. Under this law, marijuana is categorized as a substance of Schedule I control, determined to have a strong potential for abuse and no approved medical use thus banning even medical use of the medication. Policy on the medical and recreational use of cannabis, however, varies greatly at the state level, and in many states, there is significant conflict with federal law. There is growing support for the reform of marijuana law than ever before, and marijuana legalization has many severe consequences for public policy. The prohibition of marijuana was a complete failure even by its stated goals and criminalizing people using marijuana undermines the law’s legitimacy. Finally, the criminalization of marijuana greatly impacts the people working in this industry, the United States’ social environment and government resources. Data confirms that legalizing marijuana reduces the harms caused by criminalization and is ultimately better for the public.

In the article, Colorado Marijuana Impact Report, Youth Usage, Driving, Crime, Sam Tabachnik highlights the much-anticipated effects of legalizing recreational cannabis use in Colorado. He covers topics such as education, driving, crime, and health to give a well-rounded report of the effects of legalized cannabis consumption. The study the article is referencing was the result of a bill passed in 2013 that would analyze the effects of legalizing the drug for recreational use. In order to form the report, research analysts obtained data from sources, such as the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Colorado Hospital Association, and the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. The report was even described by Gov. John Hickenlooper as the most even-handed reporting on this topic to this day. What the report found was pretty positive for proponents of recreational cannabis although it had some drawbacks that were much anticipated five years ago. The state of California has been incredibly successful in diverting minors from using tobacco through regulating and putting a heavy tax on the products. The United States discouraging bad choices through taxation, as the country raises revenue compared to criminalizing use which would spend resources for law enforcement. A completely unregulated industry is problematic for the workers in the marijuana industry and this explains the support legalizing marijuana gets from labor unions. Because the market is illegal it forces workers to work under the table and therefore are denied basic labor protections. If the United States were to legalize marijuana industry thousands of people would have well-paid work. People who may have experienced sexual assault or were conned out of their money can now work in a safe, regulated working environment. An academic journal titled, “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research’. The report concluded seeing a rise in both recreational and medical use of cannabis. Conclusive proof showing the impacts of the short-term and long-term impacts is still elusive. The study also cites the challenge of researching future cannabis health effects and provides its own set of difficulties. These difficulties include some laws and bills that make it difficult for researchers to get their hands on a product suited for research purposes. The primary aim of this study is to create suggestions on a study agenda such as identifying the most critical research issues related to cannabis use associated with health results whether beneficial or detrimental.

The report from the Denver Times presents evidence that would support both sides of the argument. Although youth usage of cannabis has not gone up as feared, driving fatalities involving cannabis is on the rise. The number of drivers in fatal crashes who tested above the legal limit of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis ‘decreased to 35 in 2017, down from 52 in 2016’. An argument that opponents of recreational marijuana are that traffic accidents and death increase where cannabis is legalized. It is understandable that commercializing a product that is going to put more impaired drivers on the road would have its costly effects but studies have shown that drivers influenced by cannabis are more likely to be more cautious and take fewer risks than drivers who are drunk, such as making fewer lane changes and reducing speed. After reading a couple of other statistics on the report it is conclusive that there is no significant decrease to traffic safety after the legalization of recreational cannabis. In a 2017 youth risk behavior survey, ‘19.4% of Colorado high school students reported using marijuana in the past 30‐days compared to 19.8% of high school students nationally that reported this behavior.’ A state where cannabis has been legalized has a lower percentage of high schoolers using that drug as compared to the rest of the United States. It clearly shows that the legalization of cannabis has no effect and does not present a clear risk for highschool students. The report portrays an overall safer and better Colorado and does not fall in line with what marijuana naysayers were advocating for before the bill was passed. ou may hear from opponents of legalizing marijuana is the adverse effect it has on our youth. They will tell you that marijuana use among teens is higher in legalized states than the national average. Although this may be true, correlation is not causation. Washington University School of Medicine found that ‘the rates of marijuana use by young people are falling despite the fact that more US states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use and the number of adults using the drug has increased.’ Study after study has confirmed that marijuana policy reforms do not cause rates of youth marijuana use to increase. In terms of public policy, the marijuana legalization would put teens at less risk. Research published in the American Journal of Public Health in Spring 2018 examined the connection between the legalization of recreational cannabis by Colorado from 2000 to 2015 and opioid-related fatalities. It found that a decrease in opioid-related fatalities was associated with cannabis legalization in Colorado. One big opioid pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics donated half a million dollars in 2016 to oppose legalization in Arizona, where owning any quantity of marijuana for your own private use is a criminal offense. It acknowledged that enhanced marijuana access implies reduced opioid use. Maintaining a ban on marijuana has strong cash interests.

In an academic paper published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it presented guidelines on the best way to analyze and collect evidence on the effects of recreational cannabis. It was an objective report centered on communicating whatever you want to write to policymakers, health care providers, government health officials, or other stakeholders who affect and enact cannabis-related policies, processes, and legislation. This study offers a study agenda outlining the gaps in our present knowledge and providing possibilities for further insight into these problems that prioritize research requirements. Cannabis and cannabinoids’ health impacts provide an extensive evaluation of scientific proof relating to the health impacts and prospective therapeutic advantages of cannabis. Another important note that the article pointed out was Unlike other regulated drugs such as alcohol or tobacco, there are no accepted standards for secure use or suitable dose available to guide people in choosing whether, when, where, and how to use marijuana safely and effectively in terms of therapeutic uses. Some opponents of marijuana might say that the legalization of recreational marijuana would lead to more harm than good because of the societal cost of paying for the harm that can occur from marijuana use. These increased societal costs may include visits to the emergency room, more drug-induced accidents, and increased crime. This argument greatly underestimates the potential boost to the economy if the statewide legalization of marijuana was enacted. For example, in Colorado, the tax on cannabis brought in three times more revenue for the state than alcohol. Not to mention the legal cannabis business could reach $24 billion dollars on revenue by 2025. Criminalizing marijuana is an immense waste of public resources, while taxation on marijuana generates much-needed income. These states where recreational marijuana is legalized bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that finance significant public policy goals such as education, road construction, substance abuse treatment, and healthcare. Colorado’s sales of marijuana have produced nearly six hundred million dollars since legal sales started in January 2014. Over the previous 20 years, U.S. police departments have produced more than 10 million arrests for cannabis possession alone, an average of 700,000 per year. Marijuana law enforcement costs an estimated $3.7 billion annually. The replacement of criminalization with a tax and regulation model would produce a prospective excise tax of $6.8 billion.

Overall if we look at states like Colorado after the post-legalization of marijuana we could see that they are bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that are funding important public policy priorities. Colorado also discovered that there was a post-legalization decrease in the state of 0.7 fatalities per month and that the decades-long upward trend of overdoses fell after 2014. In addition, arrests for driving under cannabis in Colorado decreased five years after legalization. So, as seen from the essay, the benefits of the legalization of cannabis far outweigh any negative aspects or arguments that could be made. Public support from citizens and politicians is at an all-time high.

Works Cited

  1. Tabachnik, Sam. “Colorado’s Anticipated Marijuana Report Details Youth Usage, Driving and Crime over the Last 5 Years.” The Denver Post, The Denver Post, 11 Mar. 2019.
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, et al. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids : The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. National Academies Press, 2017.
  3. Eli McVey, Chart: Cannabis Industry Employs 165,000 Plus Workers, MARIJUANA BUS. DAILY (June 26, 2017), https://mjbizdai19.
  4. Colorado-Final.pdf; Christopher Ingraham, The Marijuana Industry Created More Than 18,000 New Jobs in Colorado Last Year, WASH. POST (Oct. 27, 2016),
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/27/the-marijuana-industrycreated-over-18000-new-jobs-in-colorado-last-year/?utm_term=.0ef866486e7a.2 COLORADO DEP’T OF EDUC., MARIJUANA TAX REVENUE AND EDUCATION FAQ (2018),
  6. https://www.cde.state.co.us/communications/20170919mjqa

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The Effects Of The Decision To Legalize Marijuana In Colorado [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2021 Sept 24]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-effects-of-the-decision-to-legalize-marijuana-in-colorado/
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