Colorado Editorials: Study finds marijuana is hurting Colorado
Study finds marijuana is hurting Colorado
The world finally has an answer to the question: “Does legalized marijuana pay its own way?”
Answer: Not even close.
The Centennial Institute at the acclaimed Colorado Christian University released a study this week that gives the public real answers regarding the costs of the world’s biggest pot bonanza.
The institute commissioned the Greenwood Village firm Quantitative Research and Evaluation Measurement, which reached conclusions with data provided by The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Department of Revenue, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and a variety of other agencies.
“For every dollar gained in tax revenue, Coloradans spent approximately $4.50 to mitigate the effects of legalization,” finds the study, mostly ignored by Colorado media.
Furthermore, “the costs associated with commercial marijuana are only going to go up as the long-term health consequences have not been fully determined. Like tobacco, commercial marijuana is likely to have health consequences that we won’t be able to determine for decades.”
Researchers concluded Colorado should get serious about reducing increasing death rates associated with THC-related car crashes and suicides.
The study details, with numbers and citations, problems anyone can see. The state reports marijuana generated $223.3 million last year in taxes and fees, and this purportedly helps education. Yet, all the public hears are stories about underfunded schools with diminishing revenues. Rural schools are going to four-day weeks, teaching children in crumbling buildings.
We hear endless complaints from law enforcers about increasing THC-related car crashes. Educators tell of rampant marijuana problems among Colorado’s youth, which the pot industry and its paid-for politicians counter with biased study results.
Other highlights of the Centennial/QREM study include:
– Costs related to the health care system and from high school drop-outs are the largest cost contributors.
– Marijuana use remains more prevalent in the population with less education.
– Research shows a connection between marijuana use and the use of alcohol and other substances.
– Calls to Poison Control related to marijuana increased dramatically since legalization of medical marijuana and legalization of recreational marijuana.
– About 15 people are severely burned as a result of marijuana use per year.
– People who use marijuana more frequently tend to be less physically active. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased medical costs.
– Adult marijuana users generally have lower educational attainment than non-users.
– Research suggests long-term marijuana use leads to reduced cognitive ability, particularly in people who begin using it before they turn 18.
– Yearly cost estimates for marijuana users: $2,200 for heavy users, $1,250 for moderate users, $650 for light users.
– Sixty-nine percent of marijuana users say they have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once, and 27 percent admit to driving under the influence on a daily basis.
– The estimated cost of DUIs for people who tested positive for marijuana in 2016 alone approaches $25 million.
– The marijuana industry used enough electricity to power 32,355 homes in 2016.
– In 2016, the marijuana industry was responsible for approximately 393,053 pounds of CO2 emissions.
– Marijuana packaging yielded over 18.78 million pieces of plastic.
Gov.-elect Jared Polis and members of the 2019 Legislature should examine this study. They cannot ban marijuana use and sales, which are protected in the Colorado Constitution. They can and should craft policies to reduce social and economic costs of this industry and increase the benefits voters hoped for when they enacted Amendment 64.
The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Nov. 20
With Democrats in control of the state, we must learn from mistakes made five years ago
Five years ago, Democrats in Colorado controlled all the levers of power. They held majorities in the House and Senate. The governor also was a Democrat.
As leaders of political parties in the U.S. often do when they find themselves in this position, the Democrats pressed their advantage — passing gun control legislation and a controversial renewable energy standard. They also pursued tight regulations on the oil and gas industry.
In Weld County, which remained steadfastly red, the consequences of all this were almost unimaginable. A group of activists and elected officials — led by the Board of Weld County Commissioners — began to push a secession movement. The group pointed to a divide between the urban Denver metro area and much of the rest of the state.
They said they felt like the state’s elected leaders in Denver weren’t listening to the concerns of the state’s rural areas. Ultimately, 11 counties — mostly in northeastern Colorado — joined the 51st state initiative and voters in those counties went to the polls that November to vote on a largely symbolic question about leaving the state.
Voters in Weld rejected the measure, as did voters in six other counties. In five counties — of the state’s most sparsely populated — voters said they wanted to move ahead with secession. Still, nothing happened. The effort largely faded from memory.
But election results earlier this year — in which voters swept Democrats to power in all the state’s top offices — rekindled the memories of the movement.
Of course, we don’t expect anything so dramatic this year. Still, we understand why some in Weld worry about what the future holds for the majority-Republican county with Democrats solidly in charge of the state.
Voters shot down Proposition 112, which proposed drastic rules regulating where the oil and gas industry can drill for oil. Still, with Democrats in charge, there is reason for concern about what other regulations may come from the Legislature and how those regulations may affect the energy industry, which is a major economic driver for Weld.
Beyond that, there are a host of areas where Democrats in Denver are likely to clash with the Republican majority in Weld.
Still, secession never offered a realistic solution in 2013 and it merits no discussion today. Indeed, we’re glad to see many of those who led the 2013 effort have taken a different tack than they did five years ago.
“I would hope that the new leadership at the state capitol would learn from the history of 2013,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, who was often the public face of the movement. Later, he added: “From my perspective, I’m not gearing up for a battle. I’m looking forward to finding issues where there’s common ground.”
That’s the right approach. While the secession movement did succeed in bringing the state’s rural-urban divide to the fore, it included a lot of divisive and overblown rhetoric that came with its own cost. Among other things, it exacerbated Weld’s own rural-urban split and made the area the butt of frequent jokes.
Most importantly, the secession movement got in the way of the kind of productive conversations that would have led to genuine policy solutions that could have helped close the divide.
Moving forward, we must be prepared to passionately defend the interests of Weld. Beyond that, though — unlike what happened five years ago — we must be able to reach out to and engage with the blue portion of the state. We must be willing to compromise and find common ground.
Greeley Tribune, Nov. 18
Compassion and courtesy for the transgender community
Every day more than 1 million transgender individuals in America — all of whom have families and friends, jobs and hobbies — face discrimination.
Imagine for a moment how difficult life must be for a transgender person going in for a job interview, trying to rent a house from someone on Craigslist, using the restroom at their school or getting pulled over by a police officer.
And now remember that for these individuals their gender identity is not a choice, but a part of something called gender dysphoria that is recognized by the vast majority of physicians. The American Psychiatric Association says “people with gender dysphoria may often experience significant distress and/or problems functioning with this conflict between the way they feel and think of themselves (referred to as experienced or expressed gender) and their physical or assigned gender.”
There are members of the U.S. military who have dedicated their lives to defending our nation and our freedoms who also spent years grappling with the distress of knowing their gender was different from their biological sex. These individuals knew that the cost of living as they truly are would be expulsion from their jobs — a selfless job that they pursued to keep Americans safe.
President Barack Obama recognized that those individuals should not have to hide who they are — should not have to suffer in silence — and should be able to both serve their country and relieve their internal conflict.
President Donald Trump with the policies his administration has proposed and the statements he has tweeted, views this medical diagnosis as an extreme inconvenience. He succumbs to the worst of society: those who refuse to lift a finger to help a fellow American in distress.
There are children who don’t understand why everyone insists they are one gender. That conflict can be distressing to an adult, imagine a child trying to grapple with those complex emotions. Who would deny that child the ability to express their gender in a way that brings them joy and relieves anxiety? Certainly no one who loves and cares for that child would do such a thing.
But only about 0.6 percent of the population identifies as transgender, making it easy for some not to care. It’s easy for politicians and columnists to say it’s not their problem. Why, some ask, should they have to conform laws, documents and speech to accommodate that which they don’t understand, and don’t care to understand?
We urge these individuals to think beyond their own interests to consider the needs of others.
The Denver Post editorial board has long held that there is no freedom to discriminate and our anti-discrimination laws should be enforced to protect the most vulnerable among us including transgender individuals.
And where the law cannot or should not protect people from the callous indifference of others, we will advocate for education that leads to understanding, respect and consideration.
Colorado lawmakers have taken steps in the right direction. Providing trans individuals with a way to identify their gender on a birth certificate or a driver’s license is a small step. Giving a transgender student a safe, welcoming classroom so they can learn, is an immeasurable gift. And supporting those in the workforce as they transition can make a time that is difficult both emotionally and financially, tolerable and survivable.
These compassionate policies have not harmed anyone in this great state — other than those who want a license to discriminate.
The Denver Post, Nov. 16
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