What happens after marijuana is legalized? We check with other states
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - On Tuesday, Missouri voters will decide whether to make the recreational use of marijuana legal in the state — Amendment 3. The amendment would allow those 21 and over to possess, purchase, consume and cultivate marijuana.
There would be a six percent sales tax on marijuana, with the money generated from the tax going to veterans, drug addiction treatment and the public defender system. The amendment would automatically expunge non-violent marijuana criminal records.
It’s likely to pass. A recent SurveyUSA poll completed this week showed that 61 percent of likely voters said they’d vote yes; 28 percent are certain they’ll vote no; 11 percent are still undecided. But the big question is what happens after passage — if that is indeed what happens.
Colorado was the first state to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana ten years ago—medical marijuana was approved even before that. Because of that, Colorado is one of the most studied states. KCTV5 has visited Colorado numerous times, reporting on pot.
Seven years ago, KCTV5 reported from inside UCHealth’s Emergency Department. At that time, there was concern about edibles, especially among children.
“It may cause them to be very sweaty and have their heart race and them to feel very, very anxious,” Dr. Andrew A Monte, an emergency medicine physician, told us at the time. “For a child, that could be life-threatening.”
We recently talked with Dr. Monte again.
“People have to be educated about what the adverse events are,” said Dr. Monte. “Because for a long time, the messaging was that cannabis is safe and not a problem. That’s clearly not the truth, right?”
Dr. Monte told us that the biggest concern they see in the Emergency Department is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. That’s a real medical condition presenting as severe bouts of vomiting. It affects daily long-term users of marijuana.
“It’s really quite difficult to treat,” said Dr. Monte.
He says they also treat people for overdoses and that it’s more common with gummies. That’s because people don’t immediately feel the effects so they consume more. Then it’s too much—and that’s when they seek help.
The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice provides annual reports on how marijuana impacts everything from public health to car crashes. The most recent report shows an increase in marijuana-related hospitalizations. There was initially an increase in ER visits which eventually dropped in 2019. Their number of calls to poison control also increased.
When it comes to analyzing car crashes things get more complicated.
There are numerous reports showing more car crashes, but economist Benjamin Hansen and a team of researchers took another look and questioned whether marijuana was a factor.
“We actually see a near-identical increase in traffic accidents in that comparison state, or that comparison constructed state, relative to what we saw in Colorado,” said Hansen.
Hansen and the team attribute the increase in crashes to better gas prices leading to people driving more. They also looked at the differences in how people consume alcohol and marijuana.
“Where are you going to get high versus where do you get drunk,” explained Hansen.
What researchers found is that alcohol is most often consumed in bars and restaurants—travel is involved. Marijuana of more often used in the privacy of homes—meaning fewer dangers on the road. But both substances will affect a driver’s reaction time. But the difference is that people are risk-averse while on marijuana, bolder with alcohol.
Meanwhile, if recreational marijuana is approved in Missouri, what impact will it have on Kansas? There will, of course, be spillover. The research looked at marijuana sales in communities that border states where marijuana is outlawed. They found that 50-60 percent of marijuana sales are from out-of-state customers.
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