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Regulation still Ineffective: the emerging consequences of Marijuana legalization

Since the opening of recreational pot shops on Jan. 1, 2014, some data support that regulation is not having its intended effect:

• Colorado youths remain among the nation’s heaviest cannabis users, with usage increasing at the second-highest rate in the nation. They use strains of the drug widely considered among the world’s most potent. Denver schools reported a 7 percent increase in drug-related arrests on campus during the 2013-14 school year over the previous year, jumping from 452 to 482 arrests. Middle schools across Colorado reported 951 drug violations, a 10-year record. County and state education officials attribute the increases to marijuana.

• Local addiction treatment centers are reporting more admissions for marijuana addiction. Among them is the CU adult-treatment hospital, which is continuing to track numbers, said Cort, the center’s director of professional relations.

• Colorado hospitals are reporting sharp increases in the number of children admitted for marijuana exposure, including accidental ingestion. A state committee charged with rule-making for edibles disbanded in November without reaching consensus.

• Black-market sales are booming at such high rates that they’ve been blamed for cannabis tax revenues that are tens of millions of dollars short of initial projections and campaign slogans. While speaking to a conference of other attorneys general last month, Coffman blasted legalization advocates’ linchpin argument that regulating sales would eliminate the black market, reduce associated criminal activity and free up law enforcement agencies’ resources. “Don’t buy that argument,” she said, according to U.S. News & World Report. “The criminals are still selling on the black market. … We have plenty of cartel activity in Colorado (and) plenty of illegal activity that has not decreased at all.”

• More than 30 hash-oil explosions occurred last year, prompting local and state authorities to call for laws prohibiting oil production in residential homes. At the end of last month, Colorado Springs authorities responded to a fire caused by hash-oil extraction in a home just south of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “We’d never even heard of a hash-oil explosion before marijuana legalization,” said Vasquez, the Erie police chief.

• Colorado is only beginning to learn how to collect information about marijuana-related driving arrests. In 2014, the Colorado State Patrol issued 674 marijuana-
related driving citations. The agency typically issues about
20 percent of the state’s DUI citations each year.

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