Let’s clear the air on cannabis legalization

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I appreciate U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer’s desire to gather more data on the outcomes of cannabis legalization in Colorado; we at the state legislature share that goal, and that data will be critical to our ongoing regulatory efforts for years to come.

But some of Troyer’s points sound more like a set of alternative facts from the biased Trump Commission on Marijuana. Marijuana regulation is on the right path in Colorado, yielding benefits for the state while working to set guardrails to protect safety.

Let’s start by crunching some numbers.

The regulated cannabis industry in Colorado supports over 40,000 jobs from farmers to retailers, it accounts for 5.5 percent of Colorado’s employment growth, and it has so far contributed over $800 million in tax revenue according to the Department of Revenue. Those tax dollars have been put to good use fixing crumbling schools, addressing the opioid crisis, helping build more affordable housing and funding the cost of regulation.

Troyer also asserts that black market marijuana has “exploded.” Our own Colorado Department of Public Safety has said that since legalization “the percent of black market activity has gone down.”

The black market thrives in places where marijuana remains illegal, not in places where it’s well regulated and available on the open market. If the Trump administration is so concerned with black market marijuana, as Troyer says, perhaps a better tactic would be to end federal prohibition.

Let me be clear, any person or business funneling marijuana into the illegal black market can and should be prosecuted. Our state invests significant resources in fighting gray and black market marijuana, and we are committed to effective enforcement of our marijuana laws.

With regard to safety, no one should be driving under the influence of any substance. Marijuana related driving fatalities are completely eclipsed by alcohol related automobile deaths but there’s more work to do. The state is stepping up outreach, partnering with law enforcement and industry while gathering more data so we can ensure safety on our roads.

And while Troyer mentions his concerns about teen use of cannabis, it turns out that adolescent marijuana use has dropped to its lowest level in a decade according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Meanwhile, Troyer has raised no concern about the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes among Colorado’s teens, which public health experts and officials with the Food and Drug Administration are calling an “epidemic of addiction” among teens. Safety and enforcement are key goals of our state government’s approach to marijuana legalization, and as we continue to get data about how it’s working we will continue to fine-tune our approach with safety at the forefront.

Why do all of these numbers sound so promising? Because they point to a system that — while still in its early stages and continually being refined — is working. This is in part because the cannabis industry has worked with state and local governments to develop comprehensive taxation, regulatory and enforcement structures. That’s why our regulations work.

As one of the first states whose voters overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization, we have had to craft a legal framework for regulation and enforcement from scratch. As we gather more data and insights on how legalization efforts are progressing, we are focused on refining our laws to ensure that it is working well for Coloradans.

So let’s clear the air together and find a way to make cannabis regulation work even better in Colorado. Instead of a “just say no” campaign, let’s get the facts, then act on them.

Jonathan Singer is a Democrat from Longmont and represents Colorado House District 11 and serves as chair of the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee and the House Local Government Committee.

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