Pubdate: Mon, 08 Aug 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Kathy Sullivan, Albuquerque Resident


Colorado experience shows it's a winner

Well, it's been long enough since Colorado became one of the first 
two states to approve recreational marijuana legalization in November 
2012. The rumor was that New Mexico was taking a wait and see stance 
before embarking on it's own legalization.

But now the stats are everywhere: Colorado is ranked as one of the 
fastest growing economies in our nation.

The unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2008, well below the 
national average. Incarceration rates have dropped through the floor.

Dispensaries are popping up everywhere, contributing to other 
businesses like security, marketing, web hosting, etc.,. This means 
that demand for commercial space is high and business is good. It 
also demonstrates that legalizing pot has had a ripple effect on 
Colorado's businesses.

The good has outweighed the bad in spectacular ways in most all 
aspects of Colorado's legalization.

In the beginning, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was openly opposed 
to marijuana legalization, much like our New Mexico governor and legislature.

Hickenlooper's change of heart is a result of the remarkable early 
success of legalized marijuana since weed dispensaries first opened 
in Colorado in January 2014. The state has not devolved into the 
lawless hellscape that some observers predicted.

Quite the opposite, in fact: Hickenlooper said the rate of marijuana 
usage has remained flat, arrests have gone down and Colorado is on 
pace to generate about $100 million dollars in tax revenue this fiscal year.

The number of citations and arrests for marijuana have also declined 
since legalization.

According to a study released by the Drug Policy Alliance in March, 
the number of marijuana-related charges declined 80 percent from 2010 
to 2014. Hickenlooper suggested drug dealers seem to be leaving town.

"I think that was another worry, that there would be crime-ridden 
streets and everything would be incredibly dangerous," Andrew 
Freedman, the director of the governor's Office of Marijuana 
Coordination said. "We're not seeing any of that. ... What we have 
seen is it hasn't been the catastrophe some people feared that it would be."

As the state's first "marijuana czar," Freedman is responsible for 
managing Colorado's marijuana tax revenue and helping to devise 
legislation to regulate the industry. He is also tasked with keeping 
close track of data related to legalized weed. Freedman cautions 
against drawing robust conclusions, but he noted a number of positive 
early signs.

For one, usage numbers have not climbed dramatically. According to 
data provided by Freedman's office, approximately 10 percent of 
adults 26 and older reported smoking marijuana in 2013, prior to the 
beginning of recreational sales. That's compared to 13.6 percent of 
adults who reported being regular users in 2014.

In 2013, 19.7 percent of high schoolers were regular users, a rate 
that was comparable to years before legalization.

"That shows we're at the same place in terms of adult use 
post-legalization as we were pre-legalization," Freedman said. "We 
are seeing that as a continual good sign from the market." Freedman 
and other people deeply involved in the day-to-day oversight of the 
new market say it functions pretty smoothly. But they emphasize the 
broader question of whether or not legalization ends up a success 
will probably take five or 10 years to answer fully.

It's no secret that New Mexico's economy could use some help. Every 
day, I hear about the economic tsunami facing our state.

Come on New Mexico. We can't wait five to 10 years to answer fully 
the marijuana question. Oil and gas sales are down but marijuana is a 
growing industry. It is pollution free, it is medicinal and has 
helped and eased people's lives so much. It should be legalized now.

It is estimated that the average yearly trade in marijuana is $113 
billion, a part of which Colorado is reaping greatly.

What are you waiting for New Mexico?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom