Letter to Governor John Hickenlooper, March, 2017

We are a group of scientists from Harvard University and other institutions acutely concerned about the impact of marijuana on youth, and among drivers, employees, parents, and other members of society.

The only representative sample of teens ever conducted in Colorado, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), shows that Colorado now leads the nation among 12 to 17-year-olds in (A) last-year marijuana use, (B) last-month marijuana use, and (C) the percentage of people who try marijuana for the first time during that period (“first use”).
Youth use has risen since statewide since the legalization of marijuana.

There is an active black market for marijuana. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said, “The criminals are still selling on the black market. … We have plenty of cartel activity in Colorado [and] plenty of illegal activity that has not decreased at all.” Indeed, organized crime filings have skyrocketed in Colorado. The state had one such filing in 2007 and by 2015, it had 40. That surge coincides precisely with the state’s commercialization of medical marijuana in 2009, and legalization of non-medical marijuana in 2012. Lt. Mark Comte of the Colorado Springs Police Vice and Narcotics Unit similarly commented that legalization “has done nothing more than enhance the opportunity for the black market.” A federal law enforcement official also characterized Colorado as “the black market for the rest of the country,” a statement supported by the sharp increase in seizures of marijuana mailed out of Colorado since legalization.

Moreover, the legalization of pot in Colorado appears to have opened the door for Mexican cartel operations in the heart of the United States. A representative of the Colorado Attorney General’s office noted in 2016 that legalization “has inadvertently helped fuel the business of Mexican drug cartels...cartels are now trading drugs like heroin for marijuana, and the trade has since opened the door to drug and human trafficking.”

Further, marijuana-involved traffic fatalities, poison control calls, emergency room visits, and treatment center utilization have all increased in Colorado since legalization.


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