Colorado residents wait in line to buy pot. (Photo by Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)
Colorado residents wait in line to buy pot. (Photo by Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

When I was a kid I made a lot of poor choices. Most of the time the primary reason for a bad choice was not thinking it through.

I didn’t think about the unintended consequences of my actions. I only saw the positives rather than what negatives might happen.

Something similar is happening in Colorado after passing Amendment 64 in 2012.

Unintended Consequences of Legalized Drugs In Colorado

Changing an illegal intoxicant into a taxable commodity is not as easy at it might seem. On the surface voters thought regulation of marijuana should not be that much different than the regulation of alcohol.

But that's not what happened.

Colorado didn’t just decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. They could have easily reversed that if bad things happened.

Instead Amendment 64 was just that, an amendment to their state Constitution, and that takes the bulk of voters to get rid of. Amendment 64 would have to be repealed from their Constitution much like the prohibition amendment from the US Constitution.

A Few Unforeseen Problems

As with many bills and amendments that politicians pass they had to “pass it to find out what’s in it.” Sound familiar?

OK, pots legal, now what do we do? Colorado had a six-month window to create a legal and regulatory agency that would define growing, sale, and distribution.

Medical marijuana had been used legally in Colorado since 2000 but it too had no real guidelines about dosage, purity, growing practices or safety.

Medical vs. Recreational

Over 600 licenses were giving for medical marijuana growers and 400 for recreational growers. Several licenses might be required for a single grower depending on what the final product will be used for.

There also had to be licenses for the manufacture of marijuana “edibles” that met health and food safety standards.

By the time the law took effect in July 2013 few regulations of any kind existed.

Agricultural Hazards

It seems that no pesticide or herbicide manufacturer will put “OK for cannabis use” on their labels. Few manufactures have even bothered to test their products on cannabis.

Few growers were educated about what pests, if any, attack cannabis plants so many growers made their own concoctions and as a result found their facilities were quarantined for misuse of pesticides.

Nearby peach growers were concerned about any pests, mold or fungus that could spread from marijuana growers to their crops.

Law Enforcement

Making something legal just might have an adverse effect on your community. Many communities saw increased instances of marijuana intoxicated driving, transportation of large amounts to other states.

Nebraska and Oklahoma have filed lawsuits against Colorado claiming that illegal drug related crimes and problems have migrated to their states from Colorado.

Teen use has increased, as have school expulsions, an increase in hospital admission for over use of “edibles,” increased consumption by children and pets, both deliberate and accidental are all on the rise.

Colorado Tax Revenue

Since the law took effect more than $6 million dollars in revenue has been awarded to governments across the state.

Sounds good right?

But law enforcement challenges have increased. Gang related crime is on the rise, along with drugged driving stops, fatal crashes, loss of productivity in the workplace.

Prisons population, that the law was supposed to reduce, has produced just the opposite effect. The homeless population has increased in some of Colorado’s major cities.

Tourists are loading up on pot to take back to their own states.

Some Final Thoughts

No one can dispute that alcohol and tobacco are bad for our society. The problems they cause are too many to list here.

But is bringing another intoxicant to the table in any way a positive? In most cases it’s a selfish desire for a stamp of approval for those who wish to use and abuse self serving substances.

As time goes on and the unintended consequences of Amendment 64 mount Colorado may have to rethink its initial decision.

I guess they just didn’t think it through. Comments below.

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