Monday, December 29, 2014

Colorado's cannabis experiment puts it into a global spotlight

Courtesy of The Denver Post
By John Ingold, The Denver Post
Only one year in, Colorado's unprecedented jump into marijuana legalization has become the stuff of legend.
For opponents and supporters, the state comes up repeatedly in the evolving discussion about marijuana. It is perhaps the most underappreciated consequence of legalization. By becoming the first place in the world to actually legalize commercial sales of marijuana to anyone over 21, Colorado made the worldwide debate over pot more vibrant than it has ever been.
Those in favor of legalization now think of Colorado — and, to a lesser extent, Washington state, which debuted a smaller marijuana market later in the year — as a kind of political homeland. The states' campaigns and resulting industries were the inspiration for pro-pot successes in two more states this fall and are the blueprints for coming 2016 campaigns in as many as a half-dozen states. They helped foment never-before-seen congressional rebellion against federal enforcement of marijuana laws.
Those opposed to legalization, though, see Colorado as a cautionary tale — hard evidence of the kinds of dangers that they previously had been able to warn of only in the abstract. In speeches in states and countries considering legalization, marijuana opponents now talk about accidental pot ingestions, lower-than-predicted tax revenue,gaudy industry advertising and even deaths. They cite examples of each from Colorado's first year of legalized sales.
The on-the-ground reality, of course, has been less stark than either side's version. Marijuana legalization has changed Colorado. It's just tough to say exactly how.
Marijuana is more available in Colorado than ever before, but it's unclear whether marijuana consumption has risen as a result. Teens are less likely to think that marijuana is harmful, and marijuana arrests at Denver schools are up, but that hasn't yet translated into measurably increased use. More people may be driving stoned, but traffic fatalities are down.
The smell of pot is more common along Denver's 16th Street Mall.
Tourism to the state hit record levels this year. But how much of that has to do with marijuana?
After a full year, legal marijuana sales are an experiment still very much in progress.
For the rest of the story, go to The Denver Post.

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