Colorado's booming legal weed economy

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That’s some gateway.


Wow!!! How did nobody predict this???


I was walking in a crosswalk this morning when a man suddenly turned and almost hit me. I yelled back that he needed to use his turn signals … his windows were rolled down and he was going about 3mph, so I approached his car to better explain it to him. Trucks started honking at his now stopped car, and as he drove off, he slowly cut off two other people to make another ill-advised turn.

It was clear he was not in a state he should have been driving. The guy was a little older … was the cause early-onset dementia? Or, in this town known for its weed culture, was it weed?

It will be a long time before we sort out the effects of this. Good thing that my walking was nimble enough and the other drivers attentive enough, so we’ll have to wait another day to figure this guy’s problem out.

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"it’s also the $12-40M in law enforcement savings from not busting and imprisoning pot smokers.

And then there’s the huge economic dead-weight losses averted by not turning productive working people into felons and destroying their families by putting them in jail. Pot related arrests – the major source of drug busts – are down 50%. Murders are down more than 50%."

Just keep in mind that, from the perspective of the prohibitionists, all of these are bugs, not features.


Ok - I’m looking at the data the 1/2 murders statistic came from. It certainly looks very cherry-picked because lots of crime rate have gone up dramatically. It seems that the article might be trying to explain this poorly: “freeing up law enforcement to focus on other criminal activity”… so if crime rates go up, it’s really because police can now investigate them because they’re wasting less time on marijuana possession offenses?

Anyway, some highlights:

  • Murder down, from 19 to 11 dead.
  • Disorderly Conduct / Disturbing the Peace: up 570% !!!
  • Criminal trespassing - up 250%
  • Arson doubled!! (from 33 incidents to 66 – more statistically significant than the murder rate)
  • Simple assault up 50%
  • Intimidation up 75%
  • Theft from motor vehicle down 45% (I’d say this was more of a result of legal weed than the murder rate)
  • Drug violations up 20% (I thought this was supposed to go down)
  • Weapons law violations up 50%
  • Violation of a Restraining/Court Order - doubled!

Everyone agrees that you shouldn’t drive while high. It is certainly safer than driving drunk or (worst of all) driving while tired, but it isn’t good. The point that it isn’t clear what the effects are is true. We don’t know what the net result is. It could be, that now that it is legal, more people drive high. It could also be that idiots that were going to drive high were already driving high and so nothing has changed. It could be that now that it is legal, you can run a proper non-laughable PSA campaign to try and reduce the rates of driving while high.

Regardless, unless there is a sudden shocking and unexpected change in the statistics, it is clear that if there is any more pain from idiots driving, it is a small price to pay to not murder citizens in the drug war, not ruin peoples lives with felonies, and defund violent groups of their primary source of income. Not to mention, the end of prohibition is simply a better that a just and free society that loves liberty.

We have tried this experiment before with with one of the most dangerous drug that kill more people than any other drug, alcohol. The results then were clear, and history is simply repeating itself now that we are doing it again with a far safer drug.

So yes, there are going to be negative externalities, and we should find ways to deal with them. It would be wishful thinking to think that there will be literally no consequences to ending prohibition, but those negative externalities pale in the face of the unquestionable horror, suffering, and death that prohibition brought us.


a- You should be able to walk about 30mph if the weed’s any good (good on you either way,) and
b- eh, I just got crazy slow starts and laggy indolent traffic lights out here where has big pull, so
c- reasons 3mph driving might happen: expired^Wgrotty Blu cartridge, out of levothyroxin, vaporizer connected to argon or other carrier gas, hypermile app testing, pentesting Cupertino’s street-legal AGVs…short plant hairs…pull your pulse sensor app out at that, maybe?

Nice look over the Denver blotter! Arson and court order/restraint slights won’t do…

Now, I do not partake myself, so I’m actually fairly neutral on the subject, but deciding that a driver’s obvious impairment, without any positive (or conclusive) evidence that it was actually due to weed, reeks of hysteria. Maybe it was the JENKEM! Maybe it was prescription drugs. Maybe it was alcohol. Maybe the guy (as you note with the early onset dementia comment) actually has a medical issue. Maybe he was having a diabetic crisis. Maybe he has epilepsy, and was in a post ictal state. Maybe he lives alone, and had suffered a stroke or other ischemic event, and was trying to get himself to the hospital. Maybe he’d just suffered head trauma. Maybe he has any one of a number of different cardiac diseases and was suffering from brain hypoperfusion secondary to that. See where I’m going with this?

Like any psychoactive drug, we can probably fairly safely infer that intoxication will affect perception of road hazards, alter reaction times, etc…, but to jump to a conclusion without evidence is irresponsible at best.

So here’s an actual study:
(there are many others that you can google if you’re so inclined)


Totally agree with you. like I said, I have no idea what his condition was, and I agree it’s too early to jump to conclusions either way. Thanks for the study … I liked the section on self-reported willingness to drive under various conditions. I imagine we’ll see the real world results in a year from now.

Rocky Mountain High Finance

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Looking at a few months of crime data and comparing it to a previous year is silly. Neither side should be doing this, it’s just bad. Especially with things like murder that are so rare.

That said, it’s entirely possible that the police will respond to legalization by simply ramping up harassment and arrests for other crimes. It will be instructive to see how the libertarians and pro-legalization people respond. I suspect we’ll see their ‘concern’ for the plight of people of color re: drug arrests suddenly evaporate.

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There are a lot of different ways to parse those numbers. How much did legal weed free up resources in the PD, and how much did it introduce new problems? How much of that is statistically insignificant and how much is non-correlative with legal weed?

Did criminal arson investigators get freed up to police arson better or some new forensics equipment get deployed that is entirely non-correlative. Certainly drug detectives were freed up to pursue more serious drug violators? Maybe the Denver PD had been fudging their numbers in 2013 and now in 2014 they’re more honest. Or the other way around … who’s to say.

Petty crimes: public drunkenness, disorderly conduct … could be that previously the weed charges would have carried more weight, and so that’s what they’d charge. Probably not between 2013 and 2014. Could be that weed culture attracts a bad element from out-of-state?

My point is that you can draw any conclusion you want from that data set. It’s too limited.

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How much of this is either noise or seasonal? Are you comparing from last year, or from the months before legalization? Violent crime goes WAY up in warm months.

Also it’s almost a truism that police avoid booking certain crimes to avoid having crime rates go up. Maybe now they have no alternative to busting real crimes because drug crimes are no longer something they can spend time on.


Bad driving is one of the most common things out there - much more so than stoned drivers. Unless they were sporting a rasta beanie with flamingo-colored sclera, it’s pretty hasty to blame your close call on legalizing pot.


also: Bribery: 0. Across the board. Sure…

It’s pretty interesting, it will be something to see the year-end stats and hear explanations from the cops as to their theories about the differences.

It’s very tempting to attribute any change to the legalization.

But keep in mind that tourism to denver is WAY UP because of legalization also. People who travel to another state for the specific purpose of doing drugs might be expected to do things like:

Disturb peace
Get in fights
Tresspass on someone’s property (to piss, probably)
Try to bring weed to the airport (by accident maybe, a narcotics violation?)

who knows, really? I would like to hear a story based on more than attributing changes in half-year numbers to a different legal status of one drug.


Are you just trolling? Is there any reason to believe that pro-legalization people don’t care about minorities? Even ones who are minorities themselves? Do you have data, or are you just being grouchy?


I think we can definitely attribute the 100+ millions of dollars saved not prosecuting marijuana users to the new law. Lets not allow the pointless sideswipers who are showing up here to confuse the issue, um, confuse the issue.


Did anyone manage to figure out this post?

Analogy, giant anti-war movement in the sixties when the draft was in force. Now only poor folks are required to go to war (by financial circumstance) and WOW no anti-war movement to speak of.

There is some precedent for forming this bias.