Regulating marijuana for adult use is sound policy
COLORADO—(ENEWSPF)—October 31, 2014.
By Colorado Congressman Jared Polis
Colorado is approaching the first anniversary of legally regulated recreational marijuana for adults. The implementation of our new laws has gone smoothly overall, providing an excellent example for other states to follow. Our success has made it clear that when marijuana is regulated like alcohol, it can decrease crime, help fund schools and drug education programs, and keep money out of the hands of criminals and cartels. Voters in Oregon should look to our experience and success as they make their decision on Measure 91 on their ballot November 4th.
Since Coloradans overwhelmingly approved our marijuana legalization law in 2012, initial indicators have been very encouraging. Millions of dollars are no longer being spent to criminalize thousands of citizens. Instead, the state is adding millions of dollars to its coffers, primarily to fund public school construction and drug prevention programs for young people.
Violent crime is down in Denver. Fatal car crashes are in decline statewide. Marijuana arrests that mostly hindered low-income people and young men of color are no longer creating obstacles for employment, housing and education. In fact, the state legislature is considering reforms that would apply retroactively to people currently incarcerated for activity that’s now legal.
What’s more, early results show promising trends among young people in Colorado. Licensed marijuana dispensaries have been effective at preventing underage purchases. Marijuana use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders has dropped compared to the last three years and is lower than the national average. New data also show that Colorado teens, while less likely to fear marijuana, are more likely to understand the risks to them from heavy use. It’s reasonable to believe the high level of dialogue and scrutiny about our new approach has begun sending the proper message that marijuana is regulated for adults only.
Further, the legal marijuana market now provides substantial revenue to help prevent use by young people in my state. More than half of the new tax revenue generated so far – $20 million – is designated for drug prevention and education. And like Oregon under Measure 91, Colorado maintains stiff penalties for providing marijuana to anyone under the age of 21.
The first year of controlled marijuana sales to adults also taught us some lessons that were immediately addressed by Colorado regulators and applied in the implementation of Washington’s new regulatory system. Most prominently, we must address edible products with caution and that labeling of these infused products requires detail, care and clarity to avoid accidents.
By now, I am far from alone in believing that regulating marijuana like alcohol is sound, sustainable policy. A recent report from the Brookings Institute says that Colorado “has largely succeeded” and that implementation of the new approach is “impressive.” This state is already demonstrating that regulating marijuana for adult use is fiscally wise and can actually benefit public safety and health.
I’m excited Oregon will soon decide whether to join Colorado and Washington in regulating marijuana like alcohol. More than ever, I believe it’s time to change course on decades of failed marijuana prohibition and demonstrate viable, effective alternatives to address the realities of marijuana today.
Jared Polis is a Congressman for Colorado’s second district.
This commentary originally appeared in the Bend Bulletin at: http://www.bendbulletin.com/opinion/2542911-151/regulating-marijuana-for-adult-use-is-sound-policy#