Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Colorado Lessons: Marijuana Costs Cross County Lines

Like Washington State, Colorado is seeking ways to limit the unintended consequences of the retail marijuana industry. As Washington prepares for another round of marijuana debates in the legislature, some important lessons can be learned from our Rocky Mountain neighbors. For one, that the retail marijuana industry has far reaching social costs that are showing up all across Colorado, not just in those counties with retail marijuana sales.

This post in Denver Westward points out that the social costs of cannabis are crossing county lines in Colorado into areas that have banned retail marijuana. The post points out that "banned" counties are experiencing the same increase in arrests, traffic violations, and other new demands on law enforcement seen in regions open to the industry. Other unexpected costs in these areas include those associated with additional demands on child welfare and social services linked to marijuana. There are also calls for additional funding for youth education/ prevention campaigns and additional services in counties without a visible industry footprint.

Map of Colorado Counties

As Washington State considers legislation to mitigate the impact of legal marijuana, it is important to consider all the hidden social costs. For example, when debating "pay to play" funding that rewards only those cities and counties that DO NOT BAN marijuana with a share of tax proceeds, one should consider lessons learned in Colorado-- that the true costs of the retail marijuana industry do not stop at the city or county line.

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