This year we celebrate the 10-year-anniversary since Colorado took the courageous leap of legalizing marijuana. As Colorado’s cannabis marketplace has matured and thrived over the past decade, we know for certain: It is working and thriving.

Kevin Gallagher

Adults and patients have access to safe products, incarceration rates for cannabis-related crimes have decreased, hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to education and other state programs and Colorado has given the U.S. and other countries a successful model from which to build upon.

Turns out the prohibitionists were wrong.

What is most important is that study after study shows how legalization of cannabis has resulted in lower youth use. The latest Healthy Kids survey by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, regarded as the best measurement of substance use in Colorado youth, has shown no increase in the percentage of Colorado kids who say they have used marijuana in the prior 30 days. It shows that in 2019, the rates of marijuana use reported for Colorado kids were not statistically different from national rates.

A new study published in the journal of the American Medical Association found “no significant associations between enactment of (recreational marijuana laws) … and marijuana use among high school students.”

Perhaps most significantly, cannabis consumption among youth has decreased even as more and more states have passed legalization laws, finds a recent federally funded study “Monitoring the Future” of more than 32,000 students. 

All the finger-wagging, sky-is-falling  predictions about legalized cannabis from naysayers just hasn’t played out. As the above studies show, overall trends across Colorado and the United States show that establishing regulated cannabis models actually lead to lower marijuana use among adolescents. This is a finding that directly contradicts the prohibitionists’ claims.

This year, the industry created educational materials on responsible consumption and proper dose sizing. The industry is committed to further educating consumers and lawmakers, and to debunking myths and ensuring marijuana tax dollars continue to fund meaningful health-based and educational programs. 

At the same time, when the General Assembly creates laws that restrict access, medical patients and responsible consumers are the most harmed. State-commissioned, one-sided studies could potentially place patients and adult consumers at risk of losing further access to products. Citizens and lawmakers alike must be vigilant to ensure future policies are fact-based and better protect our population from outside interests that value their bottom line over social justice and the general welfare of our great state.

Additionally, the General Assembly has introduced proposals to cap THC levels. We know from experience that if products aren’t available in the legal marketplace, an illicit market where unregulated products can be sold will fill the void.

Consider alcohol. If full-proof options are not available, and people want it, then someone will find a way to make it, which will not be as safe.

 The same applies to cannabis. If it becomes watered down, less potent, or even over-taxed, then it will easily go underground, where enforcement and tracking becomes impossible.

There are more than 450 pages of state regulations the industry must comply with. We have shown the industry as a willing partner with the Marijuana Enforcement Division to create the safest market possible, while still maintaining patient and consumer access.

After 10 years of legalization, let’s celebrate what we have created together as a model of what other states can replicate.

Kevin Gallagher, of Westminster, is the executive director of the Colorado Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association.

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