By Guy Page
The bad news about the impact of Colorado marijuana legalization continues. A medical study released this week finds that 9,973 marijuana-related emergency room visits occurred in Colorado from 2012-2016, more than triple the number that occurred prior to legalization. Additionally, the study found that 10.7 percent of visits to a major hospital were due to the ingestion of high potency marijuana edibles.
The study was announced as the Vermont Legislature struggles to pay for emergency room and other services for drug abuse and mental health patients. Another recent study in the Lancet medical journal has found a large percentage of new psychosis diagnoses are from consumption of high-potency THC.
But studies are one thing. Sometimes it takes the first-person experience of visitors to Colorado to cut through all of the haze about how retail pot would affect Vermont. Yesterday Headliners received this letter from Nikki Bagley of Weybridge, in Addison County. With slight edits, it is reprinted below with her permission:
“We [husband Chris and children] happened to be in Denver in mid-February, so we find this information particularly interesting. We stayed downtown. The area was relatively nice and, for the most part, we felt as safe there as we would walking around similar areas in Vermont. We spent a good deal of time on 16th Street both walking and using the Free MallRide bus. We also walked side streets and to the state capitol. We encountered pot smoke so often – at all hours, every day – that we asked two different people if smoking pot in public is legal. They gave the same answer, and it went something like this: “No, but people do it, and the police have other things to deal with.” We had to repeatedly tell our kids to cover their faces with their coats and run by.
“On one outing I stepped on the Free MallRide bus only to immediately step off because the stench of pot was so strong. On a different bus ride, we overheard the conversation of a group of high school teens who presumably, given the day and time, had just left school. The conversation was colorful, impossible not to hear, and certainly not family friendly. These students seemed as though they may have been from a more “at-risk” group given their appearance, language used, and content of their discussion. One young man, who was obviously stoned, brazenly broadcast that he was going to do the same thing tomorrow that he did today, “smoke some weed.” We gathered there was some sort of teacher strike going on while we were there, so maybe this student’s school day was less structured than usual.
“We wonder what Colorado’s governor would say about this if, while he’s touting the benefits of the retail sale of marijuana during his visit to Burlington’s Flynn Theater, he were asked about what the streets of Denver (at least downtown) are like on any given day. There were many vagrants – everywhere, and at all times. Has it always been this way, or is this yet another side effect of Colorado’s decision?
“We did write to one of our senators but to no avail. The first time we questioned her about co-sponsoring S.54, she defended her support. Upon our return from the timely visit to Denver, we emailed again and shared our personal experience. We asked her directly if what we witnessed and experienced in Denver is what she wants for Vermont. Five weeks have passed, and we have not heard back.”
To answer Ms. Bagley’s vagrancy question – a July 2018 study by the Colorado Department of Public Safety found that a third of the homeless inmates in Colorado jails moved to Colorado because of legal pot. What’s more, post-legalization Colorado experienced a dramatic increase in the murder and violent crime rate, at a time when they were in decline nationwide.
Tomorrow, the House Government Operations Committee is scheduled to discuss SB.54 (retail sale of marijuana) and its House companion bill, H.169. If the committee discusses the mounting evidence of Colorado’s struggles with legal marijuana, Headliners will report it.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.