SAN LUIS VALLEY — A recent report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA), a collaborative effort of law enforcement agencies in Colorado, Wyoming Utah and Montana, shows marijuana legalization in Colorado is placing youth as well as the general public at risk.
The percentage rates for accidents and use among youth continue to rise since legalization, and although other news outlets seem to shrug off these increases, they should be red flags for parents wishing to keep children safe from drug use and exposures and drivers wishing to travel Colorado roadways safely.
Saguache County is one of only 13 out of 64 Colorado counties that allow sales, cultivation, product manufacturing and testing. Sixty-one percent of Colorado counties have either prohibited marijuana sales and cultivation/production and 72 municipalities have prohibited it or have a moratorium; 28 percent have allowed it. Revenues from retail and medical marijuana taxes in Colorado amount to only .8 percent of Colorado revenues, scarcely making a dent in the state deficit.
Not factored into these revenues is the increase in services provided by hospitals for overdoses, insurance companies for coverage of services, enormous costs incurred by law enforcement to police legal grows and establishments and root out illegal grows, vehicle insurance claims for marijuana related accidents and injuries including deaths and expenses incurred by Colorado schools and community services who are forced to deal with the aftermath of increased drug availability.
Marijuana is linked to suicides and psychosis, schizophrenia and a host of other ailments that are detailed in drug education classes. Some of the after effects of the drug are not even known. It has been suggested that legalizing marijuana would reduce alcohol consumption, but so far the data does not support that theory.
Saguache County residents especially have urged their county government to seriously consider placing a moratorium on all marijuana sales and production, but so far nothing has come of this effort to convince commissioners of what many feel is the deadly seriousness of the problem.
The remainder of this article is taken directly from the report, available at http://www.rmhidta.org/default.aspx/MenuItemID/649/MenuGroup/RMHIDTAHome.htm
The purpose of this annual report is to document the impact of the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in Colorado. Colorado serves as an experimental lab for the nation to determine the impact of legalizing marijuana. This is an important opportunity to gather and examine meaningful data and identify trends. Citizens and policymaker s nationwide may want to delay any decisions on this important issue until there is sufficient and accurate data to make informed decision.
Marijuana-related traffic deaths when a driver was positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 deaths in 2013 to 125 deaths in 2016. Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66 percent in the four-year average (2013-2016) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the four-year average (2009-2012) prior to legalization. During the same time period, all traffic deaths increased 16 percent.
In 2009, Colorado marijuana-related traffic deaths involving drivers testing positive for marijuana represented nine percent of all traffic deaths. By 2016, that number has more than doubled to 21 percent. In 2016, Colorado State Patrol made about 300 fewer DU I and DUID cases than in 2015. However, marijuana made up 17 percent of the total in 2016 compared to 13 percent of the total in 2015 and 12 percent of the total in 2014.
The 2016 Colorado State Patrol DUID Program data shows 76 percent (767) of the 1,004 DUIDs involved marijuana 38 percent (385) of the 1004 DUIDs involved marijuana only.
In 2016, RMHIDTA Colorado drug task forces completed 163 investigations of individuals or organizations involved in illegally selling Colorado marijuana both in and out of state. These cases led to: 252 felony arrests; 7,116 (3.5 tons) pounds of marijuana seized; 47,108 marijuana plants seized; 2, 111 marijuana edibles seized and 232 pounds of concentrate seized.
Seizures of Colorado marijuana in the U.S. mail has increased 914 percent from an average of 97 pounds (2009-2012) to 984 pounds (2013-2016) in the four-year average that recreational marijuana has been legal.
Youth past-month marijuana use increased 12 percent in the three-year average (2013-2015) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the three-year average prior to legalization (2010-2012). The top 10 states with the highest rate of current marijuana youth use were all medical marijuana states, whereas the bottom ten were all non-medical-marijuana states.
In 2015 the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey had a response rate of 46 percent, which is well below the 60 percent rate required by YRBS, a risk behavior survey reporting statistics nationwide. Even though HKCS samples a large number of students, their participation rate is below the industry standard for weighted data. [So statistics provided by the group for this survey are not fully representative of the extent of the problems with marijuana in the schools.]
In June 2017, 76 school resource officers (SRO) participated in a survey concerning marijuana in schools. The majority were assigned to high schools and had a tenure of three years or more as a SRO. They were asked for their professional opinion on a number of questions. In the survey they reported an 86 percent increase in marijuana incidents, with 44 percent of students under the influence constituting that increase and 23 percent receiving it from parents
Colorado college age past-month marijuana use for 2014-15 was 61 percent higher than the national average compared to 42 percent higher in 2011-12. Marijuana-related exposures in children (ages zero to five) nearly tripled in the four-year average (2013-2016) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the four-year average (2009-2012) prior to legalization. In school year 2015-16, 62 percent of all drug expulsions and suspensions were for marijuana violations.
In school year 2015-16, 73 percent of all drug related referrals to law enforcement were for marijuana violations. Dropout rates also increased. Adult past-month marijuana use increased 71 percent in the three-year average (2013-2015) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.
Marijuana-only exposures more than doubled (increased 210 percent) in the four-year average (2013-2016) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the four-year average (2009-2012) prior to legalization.
From 2013 to 2016, violent crime has increased 17 percent and all crime has increased by seven percent. The Saguache Sheriff’s Office has verified he crime increase in the county.