March 18, 2018—If the average person were to read any one of the three Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) reports on the impact of cannabis legalization on communities in Colorado, they would think that the sky is falling concerning cannabis. What was apparent to cannabis activists, and those with any understanding of what constitutes valid evidence, was that the reports are completely skewed to show negative impacts. They rely on newspaper accounts, bad statistics, and law enforcement assumptions to reach their skewed conclusions. You can read the HIDTA’s most recent report here.
Luckily, the leaders in Colorado were forward thinking enough to finance more unbiased organizations to conduct real—and actually scientific and valid—research into what the true impacts of cannabis legalization have been. Colorado State University—Pueblo conducted compelling research recently and released a 100 page study with their conclusions. The study occurred during 2017 and examined only Pueblo County, which also commissioned it. According to CSU, they studied the social impact of legalized cannabis and examined many areas:
- Demographics: changes in demographic composition of Pueblo County
- Poverty, income, and housing: changes in income levels, redistribution of income, changes in housing availability and cost, and impact on homeless population levels
- Education: impact on students, educators, and school districts
- Jobs: changes in types of employment opportunities and employment availability
- Law enforcement: court/legal system issues, such as how have law enforcement and courts handled issues including conflicts between or within federal, state, and local laws; and changes in crime rates, probation services, and youth corrections
- Public health, health care, and social services: impact on health systems, services providers in the health care industry, and social services; and changes in drug use including opioids
- Attitudes: regarding cannabis’ impact on community, sub-divided among certain demographic groups
The report noted anecdotes in the community that claimed an increase in homelessness and other unwanted social changes in the community. But, the actual evidence didn’t bear that out.
“Some have argued that Pueblo has been inundated by migrants since cannabis has been legalized; we found no direct quantifiable evidence to support that perspective,” the report said. “Out-of-state migrants to Colorado generally bring college degrees, experience and affluence that enriches Colorado. To the extent that Colorado’s new “Green Rush” attracts migrants, without further investigation that demographic phenomenon operates to Colorado’s economic advantage.
The report was presented to the Pueblo County Commissioners in a early March 2018 meeting. The commissioners were quite satisfied with the results of the report, as the Denver Post reported:
To Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, long an advocate for the economic benefit of the cannabis industry in Pueblo, the report is a validation of the county’s efforts.
“More than two dozen Ph.D.s worked on this,” he said Monday, shortly after a commissioners’ meeting where the report was unveiled. “It’s really the first of its kind, a really all-inclusive look at cannabis legalization in a community”
The report concluded that there was over 58 million dollars of increased economic impact on the community and a net cost of only about 23 million. That is a net increase of over 35 million on the southern Colorado county. “The good news for the citizens of Colorado is this has been a net positive for our community,” Pace said.
Thanks to Colorado’s legislature, many millions have been earmarked for research and that will go a long way to help discredit the biased reports like the previously mentioned annual HIDTA cannabis report. CSU–Pueblo has established the Institute of Cannabis Research to facilitate and direct dozens of research efforts.
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