Colorado: A Marijuana Case Study

The Colorado state flag with a marijuana leaf on it.

In the last decade, Colorado has seen the explosion of the marijuana industry.  The Colorado marijuana industry boasts the strongest marijuana on earth ―a 20-30-percent level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary ingredient in marijuana. This is a dramatic increase from the 1-2 percent of THC in the marijuana of the 1970's.

In November 2000, Colorado voters approved Initiative 20, which legalized marijuana for medical purposes and allowed for the licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation operations and manufacturing of marijuana edibles for medical purposes.

In November 2012, Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana, allowing individuals to use and possess one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants. The 2012 amendment also permits the licensing of marijuana retail stores, cultivation operations, marijuana "edible factories" and testing facilities. (2014 report) (Voters in Washington State also approved recreational marijuana in 2012.)

The first official stores in Colorado opened in 2014, and the results are not what voters had expected:

  • There has been a sharp increase in pot-related calls to poison control;
  • Two deaths so far are attributed to marijuana use or overdoses;
  • Neighboring states are experiencing a surge in pot use; and
  • Advertising through every available medium blankets the Centennial State, desensitizing people to the risks.

As more states look at legalizing the sale and use of marijuana, Colorado offers a disturbing preview of what may be in store for them. In all likelihood, legalized marijuana represents the creation of a new equivalent to the tobacco industry of yesteryear. As tobacco has become less socially acceptable and states and municipalities are searching for new sources of revenue, marijuana is quickly becoming an industry poised to replace ―and even surpass ―where tobacco once reigned.

Perhaps most troubling aspect is the reality that marijuana has infiltrated Colorado schools, which now have lists of young people waiting to get help in treatment programs. Teens using pot face nearly twice the risk of addiction as adult users, and juvenile usage also increases the brain damage associated with the drug.

The following information will give you a glimpse into where other states could be headed if they follow in Colorado's footsteps:

Facts About Legalized Marijuana In Colorado

Disturbing Trends

Key Findings

As Colorado continues to analyze the data in the aftermath of legalizing marijuana, some key negative findings are being reported:

  • Impaired Driving: While overall traffic fatalities decreased by 14.8 percent (from 2007 to 2012), fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana increased by a whopping 100 percent.
  • Youth Marijuana Use: In 2012, around 10 percent of youth, ages 12 to 17, were considered current marijuana users, compared to 7.55 percent nationally. Colorado, which ranks 4th in the nation, was 39 percent higher than the national average.  Drug-related suspensions/expulsions in schools increased 32 percent.
  • Crime: Overall, crime in Denver increased 6.7 percent from the first six months of 2013 to the first six months of 2014.
  • Homelessness: Denver homeless shelters attribute marijuana legalization to the increase of homeless adults and youth.
  • Large Portions Of The Population Are Using Marijuana: There are an estimated 485,000 Colorado adult regular (considered at least one "use" per month) marijuana users ― or 9 percent of the total Colorado population.
  • More Heavy Users: (consuming marijuana almost daily) make up the top 21.8 percent of the user population; however, they account for nearly 67 percent of the demand.

For these statistics and more like them, please read the entire report.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensive Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) has released two reports on Colorado's marijuana experiment located at: