During debates over whether or not marijuana should be legalized, safety was one of the biggest talking points on both sides.
From a pro-legalization perspective, advocates noted that full legalization would bring transactions off the streets — often dangerous for many reasons — and into safe, responsibly run retail environments.
From an anti-legalization view, some of the major concerns regarding cannabis included the actual effect of the plant on people’s health, the prospect of people driving under the influence, and of course, what would happen to the children if legislation was allowed to pass.
Well, nearly a year since Colorado initiated legal marijuana sales to the general public, it appears that legalization has indeed made the streets safer. In fact, marijuana use among teenagers has actually dropped in Colorado.
Survey results released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment indicate that kids of high school age are less likely to view marijuana as risky than they were before, and that overall, the number of teens who have used it has dropped.
One in five high school kids used cannabis within the past 30 days, the survey found. Thirty-day use rates took a drop from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent last year, while over the same time lifetime use — which measures how many teens had actually tried marijuana at some point in their lives — dropped from 39 percent to 37 percent. While not a significant shift, it is indeed a drop, instead of the supposed increased many assumed.
What About Driving…
One of the other chief concerns about legalization would be that it would encourage drivers to get behind the wheel while under the influence. A worthy concern, yet traffic data from Colorado has proven that traffic fatalities have actually declined since prohibition was ended in Colorado.
Fatalities in Colorado peaked in 2002, one year after Colorado’s medical marijuana law went into effect, and has since dropped by more than a third. Also, since legal sales began in January, traffic fatalities for the year are down as compared to 2013.
While there really can’t ever be anything directly linking legal cannabis to safer roads, the data does show marked improvement. Some experts believe that fewer fatalities and legal cannabis can be linked, as some people may decide to substitute the act of marijuana use in place of drinking.
For the majority, legal marijuana doesn’t necessarily change their behavior. If they smoked before, they still do. And if the law was the only thing holding them back, chances are they still aren’t smoking now.
For now, it appears that the streets, at least in Colorado, are a bit safer. At the very least, people no longer need to be worried about engaging in sketchy black market drug deals in parking lots, and can instead engage in commerce like adults in retail stores.
Larry David Buys Weed
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