Marijuana’s Impact on Colorado Not as Big as Predicted

The impact of marijuana legalization in Colorado has been less than critics and supporters predicted, according to The Wall Street Journal. The state has seen neither a tax windfall nor dramatic social consequences, the newspaper reports.

Sales of marijuana have been slower than expected, partly due to a 25 percent tax rate for recreational marijuana. Experts say the high tax rate has steered users toward medical marijuana, which is less expensive. The office of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper last year predicted the state would collect almost $100 million in revenue from recreational marijuana taxes in the fiscal year that began in July. State economists now estimate sales of recreational marijuana will generate $58.7 million in tax revenue for the fiscal year.

“It was an educated guess, because we were dealing with a federally illicit product,” noted Larson Silbaugh, a senior economist with the Colorado Legislative Council.

Teen marijuana use declined from 2011 to 2013, according to a survey released last summer by the Colorado Department of Public Health. A recent report by the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) came to a different conclusion. SAM found marijuana use in all age groups in Colorado and Washington State has exceeded the national average during the past year. Marijuana use in both states rose significantly between 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, the group noted.

Colorado has had safety problems with marijuana, particularly edible forms of the drug, the article notes. The number of calls to the state’s poison control center by people experiencing adverse effects from marijuana nearly doubled to 202 as of late November, compared with all of 2013.

Doctors at Colorado Children’s Hospital reported in 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that they treated 14 children who ingested marijuana, half of whom ate marijuana-laced foods.

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    January 14, 2015 at 12:05 PM

    The article is a little premature in touting the minimal social costs. Those factors will take a lot more time to trickle down through Colorado society, thinking, and resulting behavior changes. As well as impact on physical health, environment, school problems, etc. Jury is still out.

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