COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- It's been a little over seven years since Colorado first started selling recreational-use cannabis, and a new report this week from the state's Division of Criminal Justice shows the criminal and societal impacts legalization has had so far.
Amendment 64 made cannabis legal for retail sale and possession, and the first sales began on Jan. 1, 2014. The full report is nearly 200 pages long, but here's a summary of the main points the report found.
Adult use of cannabis up, youth use increases slightly
Since then, the state has found that while adult use of marijuana has increased, there hasn't been a significant increase in cannabis use among youth -- 19% of adults reported marijuana use in the past 30 days during a survey in 2019, compared to 13.4% of adults in 2014.
Since recreational legalization, adults have shifted slightly away from smoking flower to instead "dabbing" cannabis concentrates or consuming edibles. A new bill signed into law this year in Colorado enacted new regulations on marijuana concentrates, including limiting the amount that medical marijuana patients can purchase in a day.
A survey of middle school and high school students found that the past 30-day use rate went from 19.7% in 2013 to 20.6% in 2019. However, about 21.7% of high school students nationwide reported cannabis use in the past 30 days.
Arrests drop significantly, but racial disparity persists
According to the Division of Criminal Justice, the total number of marijuana arrests dropped by 68% from 2012 to 2019. The big drops in arrests were for possession and sales, though arrests for cannabis production increased by about 3%.
However, despite the big drop in arrests, the marijuana arrest rate for Black people in Colorado was more than double the rate for white people. According to the Division of Criminal Justice, Black people were arrested at a rate of 160 per 100,000 compared to 76 white arrests per 100,000. According to the ACLU, the cannabis use rates between Black and white people are about equal.
For juveniles, the number of marijuana arrests decreased about 37%, from 3,265 in 2012 to 2,064 in 2019. A racial disparity exists among juvenile arrests as well, according to the data. White juveniles were arrested at a rate of 352 per 100,000, compared to 429 per 100,000 for Black juveniles.
The number of court cases related to marijuana also declined by about 55%, following the drop in arrests. There were 9,925 marijuana-related court filings in 2012 and 4,489 filings in 2019.
The report also noted that since legalization, more people on probation have tested positive for THC. About 47% of probationers aged 18 to 25 tested positive for THC in 2019, compared to 32% of probationers testing positive in 2012.
But DUIs involving marijuana skyrocket
Even with the big drop in arrests for marijuana possession and sales, the state says there was a big jump, about a 120% increase, in summonses issued by Colorado State Patrol for DUIs that involved marijuana.
According to the state's report, there were 684 DUIs with marijuana alone or marijuana-in-combination in 2012. That rose to 1,508 in 2020.
The report points out that a survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2019 found that 3.5% of adults reported driving within two to three hours of using cannabis in the prior 30 days.
Cannabis trafficking past Colorado's peak
One of the challenges faced by law enforcement when Colorado became the first state in the lower 48 to legalize cannabis was enforcing the shipment of products to other states.
According to the Division of Criminal Justice, a Drug Enforcement Agency database was put together for law enforcement agencies to report drug seizures for Colorado-sourced marijuana. That database showed that Colorado-sourced marijuana seizures went from 286 in 2012 to 673 in 2017, but that then dropped back down to 266 in 2019.
The Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado report also points out how much money has been made by the state from cannabis. According to the report, the total revenue from taxes, licenses, and fees increased from $67 million in 2014 to $387 million in 2020. A total of $120 million in taxes was transferred to the school capital construction fund in 2020, compared to $33 million in 2015.