Article by Nick Wing, Huffington Post
When Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, opponents of the measures warned that ending the longstanding prohibition on weed would wreak havoc on society. The fiscal benefits associated with taxed and regulated marijuana wouldn’t be worthwhile, they said, because more children would end up using the drug and high drivers would terrorize the roadways.
Those dire predictions haven’t come true, according a new report by the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that lobbies for progressive reform of drug laws. In fact, legalization has had a negligible effect on rates of youth marijuana use and traffic fatalities in Colorado and Washington ― and in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., which have all since approved marijuana for recreational use. At the same time, marijuana arrests have plummeted and total revenue from legal weed has surged past $500 million.
“This report shows that a lot of those fears don’t come to fruition in the case of legalization,” said Joy Haviland, staff attorney at DPA. “It’s clear that prohibition has not worked, so states need a new solution going forward.”
The study looked at drug use surveys of high school students in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, which show that both current and lifetime marijuana use among youth has remained stable after legalization.
Marijuana legalization has made no discernible mark on traffic fatalities in Colorado and Washington, the report finds, and total arrests for impaired driving have declined in those states. Although more Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes have tested positive for the psychoactive compound THC in recent years, the report notes that links between impairment and THC levels in a driver’s system have not been fully established. In other words, just because a driver has THC in their system at the time of an accident does not mean they were impaired. Furthermore, the report says this increase could be due to enhanced reporting and testing standards enacted in Washington post-legalization.