Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Publishes Report on Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Part Two





(LAKEWOOD, Colo., Oct. 26, 2018) – The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Office of Research and Statistics today released “Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,” a report that compiles and analyzes data on marijuana-related topics including crime, impaired driving, hospitalizations and ER visits, usage rates, effects on youth, and more.  This is the second of two parts.  The first was put online on Monday, October 29th.

Seizures on public lands

Seizures on public lands are an indicator of the size of the black market in Colorado. Data reported by the National Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) show that federal agencies have made significant seizures of marijuana on public lands and illegal indoor grows both prior to legalization and since 2012, with very large seizures in recent years.

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s cannabis eradication of outdoor and indoor grows did not show a trend from 2006 to 2017. For example, eradication of outdoor plants ranged from as many as 29,655 in 2009 to as few as 2,059 in 2017.

Similar to trends seen with other law enforcement activity, seizures on public lands dipped significantly in 2013 and 2014 compared to 2009-2012. Seizures then rose continuously from 2015-2017.

In 2017 alone, more than 80,000 plants were seized on public lands.

Diversion out of state

Diversion out of state is another indicator of the size of the black market, and is a must-track data point as we aim to work with our federal and state partners to diminish illegal activity related to marijuana.

The number of seizures reported via the El Paso Intelligence Center increased from 2012 (286) to 2015 (768) but decreased in 2016 (673) and 2017 (608).

Marijuana seizures by the US Postal Inspection Service have increased steadily since 2010, from 15 parcels seized containing 57 pounds of marijuana in 2010 to 1,009 parcels containing 2001 pounds in 2017.

Hospitalizations & ER Visits

These are critical data points so we can track harmful exposure to children, inappropriate usage, and other drivers of marijuana-related hospitalizations. These and related data points prompted legislative and regulatory developments between 2014 and 2016, including child-resistant packaging requirements, requirements for edibles to be marked with a universal symbol so they can be identified even outside their packaging, limitations on the total amount of active THC in an individual retail marijuana edible, and prohibitions on the manufacturing and sales of edibles in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit.

Rates of hospitalization with possible marijuana exposures increased steadily from 2000 through 2015.

Human marijuana exposures reported to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center increased significantly from pre-legalization to 2014, then flattened out from 2014-2017.

School discipline & achievement

New data points are helping us gain a better understanding of school discipline; overall the state is not seeing an impact of recreational marijuana use on high school graduation and drop-out rates.

The total number of suspensions, expulsions, and law enforcement referrals for any reason has remained consistent post-legalization.

Marijuana was the most common single reason for school expulsions (22%) and law enforcement referrals (24%) in the 2016-17 school year, the first full year where marijuana was reported separately as a reason for disciplinary action.

Graduation rates are up and drop-out rates are down since 2012. The Graduation rate rose steadily from a 10-year low point of 72 percent in the 2009-2010 school year to 79 percent in the 2016-2017 school year. Over that same time period, the drop-out rate decreased from 3.1 percent to 2.3 percent.

Youth Usage & Attitudes (12-17 years)

Surveys show Colorado is not experiencing an increase in youth usage of marijuana. Preventing negative impacts on youth has been a focus of various state efforts, including public education campaigns that raise awareness about the health and legal consequences of teen marijuana use. The Marijuana Impacts report compiles and analyzes data previously released in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) to examine trends related to youth usage and impacts.

The youth marijuana rate reported via NSDUH for the 2015/16 school year (9.1%) was the lowest it’s been since 2007/08 (9.1%).

According to HKCS, the proportion of high school students reporting using marijuana ever in their lifetime or reporting past 30-day use remained statistically unchanged from 2005 to 2017.

According to HKCS, the proportion of students trying marijuana before age 13 went down from 9.2% in 2015 to 6.5% in 2017.

Alcohol was the most common substance students reported using at any point in their lives (59%) followed by e-cigarettes (44%) and then marijuana (35%).

“Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado” is shared with state legislators and posted for the public to review online.


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