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March
18
2019
Recreational Marijuana

Legalized recreational marijuana in Minnesota? Good or bad? Here are some facts to consider . . .

HIDTA, The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to provide assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. This grant program was administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Their website is www.dea.gov/hidta.

According to HIDTA, there are several alarming statistics coming out of Colorado that contradict a lot of the positive points being made in our state capital about the benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana.

“It could reduce the number of people locked up for drug offenses . . .”

I personally can’t remember the last time I actually arrested someone for possessing a small amount of marijuana. Most law enforcement here will tell you the same thing. Those being arrested are in possession of larger quantities for sale — that wouldn’t change with recreational marijuana being legalized here. These arrests are still happening in states where it is legal. The suggestion that legalizing it will help reduce illegal sales or “black market” marijuana crimes is just not accurate according to HIDTA. In 2017, Colorado’s state drug task force seized 7.3 tons of marijuana that was headed for 24 different states throughout the country. Seizures of Colorado marijuana in the US mail system have increase 1042%. The Colorado Highway Patrol has seen marijuana seizures increase 39%. They’ve also seen an increase in violent crimes and property crimes related to the marijuana trade.

Public safety on our highways is a concern as well. In Colorado, marijuana related traffic deaths are up 151%. Traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled.

“Legalizing pot could bring in a new source of tax revenue if regulated properly . . .”

In Colorado, Marijuana tax revenue represents approximately nine tenths of one percent of Colorado’s FY 2017 budget. Some data estimates for every sales tax dollar brought in, the state is spending $4.50 to manage the program and all the challenges that come with it — state program management, increased law enforcement expense, increased medical and treatment expenses, etc. Granted, there is other revenue besides tax dollars coming from this industry to be considered. In a recent economic impact study in Pueblo County alone (similar in population to Olmsted County), the marijuana industry led to increased demand for law enforcement and social services totaling $23 million dollars in added costs. Advocates will tell you those costs were offset by the $58 million that marijuana generated for the county in the same year — a positive net impact of $35 million. Locals including the Sheriff, will argue that the compromised public safety, public health, and quality of life in their county caused by legalizing recreational marijuana is absolutely NOT worth the net impact.

According to HIDTA, additional negative impacts to Colorado’s budget include a 52% increase in emergency room visits related to marijuana incidents. Their yearly rate of marijuana related hospitalizations are up 148%. Much of this is because of the increased potency of Colorado marijuana products — smokeable marijuana with THC potency exceeding 19% and concentrates and edibles over 100% THC. Compare this to 1995 marijuana THC potency averages of 4-5%. Bottom line is this isn’t the same weed from the 90s, 80s, 70s, or earlier. With these levels of THC, this is a completely different drug, and no one knows the long term effects and consequences of use. In the public health and medical communities, they’ll tell you that today’s marijuana users risk physical withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and psychological dependence. This is a completely different drug from weed back in the old days.

I could go on and on with documented concerns coming out of Colorado. Keep in mind, this is about recreational marijuana, not medical marijuana like we have here now — two completely different programs. Many for legalization say it’s simply about letting people use marijuana in the privacy of their own homes, just like alcohol. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are a lot of the negatives that go along with legalizing recreational marijuana that aren’t being discussed, aren’t being shared, aren’t being considered — our state leaders seem focused on the potential revenue source this legislation could produce. But at what cost?

Colorado ranks 3rd in the nation for marijuana use with kids 12 and older (85% higher than the national average!). Is that what we want for our kids? For our state?

Something to think about . . .

Your Sheriff,

Scott

This post was originally published in January, 2019 at Sheriff Rose’s blog.

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Scott Rose
Sheriff
Dodge County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota