In a review of the first year of recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado, the Denver Post says the on-the-ground reality is less stark than the version of either advocates or opponents. Marijuana legalization has changed Colorado. It’s just tough to say exactly how. Marijuana is more available in Colorado than ever before, but it’s unclear whether marijuana consumption has risen as a result. Teens are less likely to think that marijuana is harmful, and marijuana arrests at Denver schools are up, but that hasn’t translated into measurably increased use. More people may be driving stoned, but traffic fatalities are down.
The smell of pot is more common along Denver’s 16th Street Mall. After a full year, legal marijuana sales are an experiment still very much in progress. “People are trying to jump to conclusions much faster than the data allows,” said Andrew Freedman, the man in charge of coordinating Colorado’s policy efforts on marijuana legalization. The jumps are even bigger because of Colorado’s data-collection woes. The state lacks systems for quick, accurate measurements of youth use, marijuana-related incidents at schools, stoned driving and many other questions. State officials this year commissioned a 74-page report titled “Marijuana Data Discovery and Gap Analysis” to address the problem. One person in the Department of Public Safety is now in charge of coordinating data-collection efforts for 2015. This year, police said marijuana legalization would cost more for them to enforce than marijuana prohibition.