Rocky Mountain High: After 6 Months, Crime Down, Tax Revenue Up In Colorado

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Six months after Colorado became the first state to sanction the legal sale of recreational marijuana, it is nearly $11 million richer in retail sales taxes.

The state also has another $1.9 million in excise taxes earmarked for school construction, according to a report card by the Drug Policy Alliance.

The organization also reports a 5.2 percent decrease in violent crime in Denver, where most marijuana stores are located, and a savings of $12 million to $40 million by years’ end for not having to enforce old marijuana possession laws.

The report also cites the Marijuana Industry Group’s estimation that 10,000 people are directly employed by the legal pot industry and quotes Gov. John Hickenlooper — who opposed the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized sale and possession for adults — saying, “While the rest of the country’s economy is slowly picking back up, we’re thriving here in Colorado.”

And just recently, regulators with the state Marijuana Enforcement Division announced that all marijuana stores inspected for compliance in not selling pot to minors passed the test. (RELATED: Colorado Pot Shops Pass ‘No-Kids’ Test With Flying Colors)

“I think so many things people were scared about have been shown to be nonsense,” Michael Elliot, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, told Denver’s 7News.

But drug counselors caution that other consequences of the new law present concerns.

A Denver detox facility reported that 15 percent of its patients arrested for driving under the influence had been smoking marijuana — an increase from 8 percent during the first three months of 2013.

“This percentage increase is significant because recreational marijuana legalization is in its infancy, and there has clearly already been an impact on public safety,” Art Schut, the CEO of Arapahoe House, told USA Today. “Our hope is that this new data will create awareness so that if Coloradans choose to use marijuana, they do not get behind the wheel.”

The state is also still tweaking its regulations, especially around the sale and packaging of edible marijuana found in cookies, candies and other products that can be easily mistaken for benign treats.

The Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center has reported 19 cases so far this year of children under five accidentally eating marijuana-laced food, according to 7News, The center also reported that 11 kids were treated for marijuana ingestion at Children’s Hospital Colorado, six of whom were critically ill.

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