Patricia Billinger, Colorado Department of Public Safety
PIO: 720-692-7570 Patricia.firstname.lastname@example.org
Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Publishes Report on Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado
(LAKEWOOD, Colo.) – The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice’s Office of Research and Statistics has published the latest “Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado” report, which presents data on marijuana-related topics including crime, impaired driving, hospitalizations, ER visits, usage rates, effects on youth, and more.
In 2013, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB 13-283 directing the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) within the Colorado Department of Public Safety to conduct a study of the impacts of Amendment 64, which legalized the retail sale and possession of recreational marijuana for adults over age 21. This is the third report pursuant to the legislation; DCJ publishes its findings every other year.
“This report provides a wealth of valuable information to help policy makers, law enforcement, schools, the marijuana industry and the public understand the effects of legal recreational marijuana in our communities,” said Stan Hilkey, Executive Director of the Department of Public Safety. “The information is presented in a comprehensive and unbiased manner, and I am proud of the detailed and extensive work our DCJ researchers have done to collect and analyze this vast compilation of data.”
Total revenue from taxes, licenses, and fees from about 2,700 licensed marijuana businesses totaled more than $387 million in 2020 in Colorado.
As expected, the total number of marijuana arrests in Colorado has dropped since legalization, although the arrest rate for Black people remained disproportionately high compared to white people. Use of marijuana products among adults has increased since legalization, however youth use did not experience a significant change. Over the past 10 years, Colorado has seen increases in marijuana-related hospitalizations, Emergency Room visits, poison control calls, DUIs, and fatal crashes where drivers tested positive for cannabinoids.
In terms of crime, law enforcement agencies continue to combat illicit market activity. Because of the nature of this type of activity being inherently hidden from regulation and oversight, it remains challenging to quantify the size of the illicit market in Colorado; the state can only track and report the indicators of illegal activity, such as arrests and seizures. The number of plants seized on public lands and the number of out-of-state seizures of marijuana sourced from Colorado have fluctuated significantly over time. The number of court filings for marijuna-related felonies or charges related to the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act have also fluctuated -- in 2019, the number of charges were close to or slightly below 2012 numbers.
The full study can be found online at Colorado.gov/dcj-ors.
*It is important to note that data sources vary considerably in terms of what exists historically. Consequently, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization and commercialization on public safety, public health, or youth outcomes, and this may always be the case due to the lack of historical data. Furthermore, the measurement of available data elements can be affected by the very context of marijuana legalization.
*Note that the detection of any cannabinoid in blood is not an indicator of impairment but only indicates presence in the system. Detection of Delta-9 THC, one of the primary psychoactive metabolites of marijuana, may be an indicator of impairment.
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