I had not come across any articles that try to analyze some of the potential consequences of the legalization of cannabis in Colorado until this one (see: Stephen E Lankenau: Legalising cannabis for recreational use in the US). It was very well done. Below is a list of what the author of the article thinks we might anticipate:
- Increased tax revenue. Retail cannabis will be taxed at a 25% rate in Colorado, which may net $60 million or more in tax revenue in 2014. In addition, drug tourism, like in Amsterdam, is likely to increase, which will result in tourists from around the globe filling up hotels, restaurants....
- Decreased criminal justice costs. While people under 21 can still face arrest or fines for possession of cannabis in Colorado, costs associated with policing, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for possession are likely to decline significantly.
- Reducing disparities in arrest. At the citizen level, legalization of cannabis could have major implications on arrest records. A recent report ...revealed that while black Americans and white Americans use cannabis recreationally at approximately the same rate, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for cannabis.....
- Increases in problems associated with cannabis. Problems could include dependence and/or progression from cannabis to other drugs as well as driving under the influence of cannabis. However, this assumes that legalization will attract new cannabis users and/or the frequency of cannabis use among current recreational users will increase....
- Safety of cannabis products sold. While cannabis is often perceived as a natural or organic product, it may contain contaminants, such as mold or industrial fertilizers, based on how it is grown or stored. Laboratories have emerged that test cannabis for potency....States that are receiving tax revenue on the sale of cannabis products should take steps to assure buyers that cannabis products sold do not contain harmful contaminants.
- Sales and distribution of cannabis across state lines. As production of cannabis increases to meet demand within the state, growers could export and sell excess product to other states. While this is likely to be already happening in states such as Colorado, legalization could increase the scale of selling across state lines.
- Federal government’s stance towards legalization. The US Justice Department indicated that they will not interfere with newly enacted cannabis legalization in Colorado or pre-empt legalization efforts in Washington State as long as citizens comply with laws in those states. Under federal law, cannabis remains a schedule I drug, a status indicating that the drug has high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
I am personally most worried about people operating cars under the influence of cannabis although this is surely a common occurrence in other states where pot is not legal. Apparently smoking pot will be the basis for a DUI citation in Colorado according to state authorities (see: Don’t puff & drive? Expect DUIs for pot in Colorado). Drivers suspected of smoking pot will be subjected to a blood test so the process won't be a quick as measuring blood alcohol. Here's a quote from this latter article:
The results of the blood test could take two to six weeks to come back, according to Lewis. The legal limit of THC -- an active ingredient in marijuana -- that Colorado drivers can have in their blood is 5 nanograms per milliliter. That's a limit that Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, calls arbitrary and inaccurate."Measuring five nanograms does not measure impairment," St. Pierre said. "You can have individuals who have stopped using marijuana two weeks ago, two months ago. In some cases, if they were losing weight, they could still test over 5 nanograms."
::Update on 2/17/2014 at 5:00 p.m.