Pubdate: Fri, 30 Sep 2016
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Hearst Communications Inc.
Authors: Joe Garofoli and Peter Fimrite


Since they became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana
in 2012, Washington and Colorado have been scrutinized as test cases
around the country a€" particularly in California, where voters will
decide on election day whether to follow suit.

Here are six questions that are being asked about legal weed, and the
answers that are emerging:

How much cash are states hauling in?

Washington brought in $186 million in marijuana tax revenue in the
fiscal year that ended June 30 a€" a revenue stream that is on pace to
jump by roughly 50 percent in fiscal 2017.

Colorado took in $135 million in 2015, and is on track to
substantially surpass that figure this year.

Are more kids toking up?

Colorado saw a modest increase in teenage marijuana use after
legalization, while Washington saw a very small increase, according to
the federal governmenta€™s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The
increases, though, follow longer upward trends, making it difficult to
say how the pot laws factored in.

The numbers are based on rolling two-year surveys of youths ages 12 to
17, which found increases in respondents who said they had used
marijuana in the past month from 2011-12 to 2013-14. The Washington
figure rose from 9.45 to 10.06 percent, while the Colorado figure
jumped from 10.47 to 12.56 percent. At the same time, teen pot use
slightly declined across the nation.

Has stoned driving made roads more dangerous?

The number of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes who had
marijuana in their systems has risen since legalization a€" but deadly
crashes overall have gone up at almost the same pace, according to
figures from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. In 2012, 66
drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for THC, the psychoactive
ingredient in marijuana, and in 2015 there were 98 such drivers.


General Manager Rob Raymond shows how finished, dried and trimmed
buds of Narnia await packaging and labeling Sept. 20, 2016 at
Soulshine Cannabis, a 50k-square-foot Tier III cannabis production and
processing facility in an industrial area in Renton, Wash. Fresh
cannabis buds are dried for 10 days and then placed into bins for
curing and exposed each day to air in a process called burping for 15
more days before being trimmed. Each bin contains about 5 pounds of
marijuana ready for packaging. Washingtona€™s slick pot industry
booming In Colorado, fatalities involving drivers with traces of THC
in their blood increased from 55 to 79 from 2013 to 2014, according to
the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

However, ita€™s unknown how many of the drivers in fatal crashes were
stoned at the time of the incident, as THC can stay in a persona€™s
system for days. And the drivers may have been drunk or under the
influence of another drug. Moreover, a report last year by the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the agency did not
find that marijuana use was associated with an increased risk of
getting in a crash.

Studies in states that have legalized pot have also shown increases in
THC-related DUIs. But marijuana advocates claim DUI statistics a€" as
well as the crash data a€" may reveal only an increased focus on
testing for marijuana.

Did legalization bring criminal justice?

A central argument for marijuana legalization has been that people of
color are disproportionately subject to pot-related arrests, even
though they dona€™t use the drug any more than whites. The early
figures out of Colorado offer a mixed bag as to whether legalization
has changed that.

In the first two years of legalization, marijuana arrests fell 46
percent as many people complied with the new regulations, according to
the Colorado Department of Public Safety. However, while the number of
arrests decreased 51 percent for whites, they dropped only 33 percent
for Latinos and 25 percent for African Americans. The pot-related
arrest rate for African Americans remained nearly triple that of whites.

Juvenile marijuana arrests increased by 5 percent overall, but went up
29 percent for Latino youths and 58 percent for black youths. The
number of white juveniles arrested fell 8 percent.

What about the price of pot?

There is strong evidence that increasing competition after
legalization and the spread of retail stores has pushed prices downward.

In Washington, a gram of dry flower, or bud, now averages about $9 a€"
the cheap stuff can go as low as $6 a€" compared with a year ago when
it averaged $10 to $12 before taxes, according to BOTEC Analysis
Corp., which tracks data for the state.

In Colorado, the cost of a pound of pot fell from a high of $2,600
last October to $1,600 in August, according to the online marijuana
distribution platform Tradiv.

Have residents of Colorado and Washington changed their

Four years after 55 percent of Colorado voters supported recreational
pot, support seems to be steady or growing, with only 36 percent of
the statea€™s voters favoring a repeal, according to a recent poll.
The Public Policy Polling survey, commissioned by a pro-legalization
group, found a slim majority (51 percent) saying they would not repeal
it, with 13 percent unsure. A solid 61 percent of respondents said
legalizationa€™s impact had been positive, with 19 percent seeing
negative effects. Fourteen percent perceived no impact and 6 percent
werena€™t sure.

The same trend holds in Washington, where 56 percent of voters backed
legalization in 2012. A 2014 survey conducted by the Public Health
Institute in Emeryville found that 5 percent of those who voted to
legalize would change their vote, while 14 percent of those who
opposed legalization would go the other way.

In 2015, a Public Policy Polling survey found voters in Washington
supporting legal weed by 19 points a€" 56 to 37 percent a€" and only
22 percent of people saying legalization had negatively affected their
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt