Sarcasm alert: if you get your news through social media then, throughout the weekend, you might have seen tweets, Facebook posts or blog entries linking to this article: “Here's the crime-ridden hellscape that is Colorado after legal weed.”
It's actually a straightforward article which Reuters published on July 3, though the Huffington Post added the “hellscape” headline when it reprinted the article, and it was HuffPo's reprint that got the most attention from social media outlets – the headline sarcasm becomes evident once you read past the first few sentences in that article and it becomes plain that today's Colorado is not a “crime-ridden hellscape” at all:
Tax dollars are pouring in, crime is down in Denver, and few of the early concerns about social breakdown have materialized - at least so far …. In the first four months, marijuana sales amounted to more than $202 million, about a third of them recreational. Taxes from recreational sales were almost $11 million.
Despite some critics' fears of a pot-driven crime explosion, Denver police say burglaries and robberies were down by between 4 and 5 percent in the first four months of the year.
That's not to say there haven't been any downsides; Reuters went on to note
On the down side, sheriff's deputies in neighboring Nebraska say pot seizures near the Colorado border have shot up 400 percent in three years, while Wyoming and New Mexico report no significant increases.
In May, controls on marijuana edibles were tightened after two people died. In one case, a college student jumped from a hotel balcony after eating six times the suggested maximum amount of pot-laced cookies. In the other, a Denver man was charged with shooting dead his wife after apparently getting high from eating marijuana-infused candy.
Reuters did not say how many alcohol-related health or crime problems Colorado saw in that same time period. However, it is true that (especially for inexperienced or careless users) inadvertently eating “too much” marijuana is indeed easier than inadvertently drinking “too much” alcohol, solely because of the time differential: when someone drinks alcohol, or smokes marijuana, the intoxicating effects kick in almost immediately, whereas with edible marijuana, it can take up to an hour before any effects are felt.
Colorado's brief history with legal marijuana sales is of particular interest now that Washington State is set to follow its lead: the state Liquor Control Board today gave out its first of up to 20 business licenses allowing for the recreational sale of marijuana to adults in that state.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization of law-enforcement professionals opposed to the war on drugs, noted that, although the marijuana business is now legal in Washington State, there will almost certain be supply shortages and other problems at first, especially since the state's first legal marijuana growers only got their licenses in March, so there simply hasn't been time for many crops to come in yet.
Retired police Major Neill Franklin, LEAP's executive director, said that “Washingtonians know that, as in Colorado, governments both foreign and domestic will be watching to see how legalization progresses in the state. And I imagine that, as in Colorado, lower crime rates, increased tax revenue, thousands of new jobs and continuing public support will indicate legalizing and regulating marijuana is one of the simplest ways to improve not just our criminal justice system, but our state governments generally.”
The Associated Press reported that, due to the supply shortages,Pot prices were expected to reach $25 a gram or higher on the first day of sales — twice what people pay in the state's unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries.” Of the 2,600 people who applied to become licensed growers, less than 100 have been approved and only about a dozen had a ready-to-harvest crop by this month.