Please see the below piece I authored that appeared in the Denver Post over the weekend. It's regarding whether Jefferson County should allow licensed, regulated, and taxed marijuana businesses.
Links to the piece, and the counter, are at the bottom of this email.
Should Jeffco allow retail marijuana stores in unincorporated parts of the county? Yes
It's in the county anyway; why not profit?
By Michael Elliott
POSTED: 09/20/2014 05:01:00 PM MDT
Sep 20, 2014:
Editor's note: Nine months after businesses selling recreational marijuana opened across Colorado, some communities are still debating whether they should allow the shops within their borders. In April, the Jeffco Board of Commissioners appointed a task force to study the issue. This week, the commission will hear the results of its reports, excerpted below.
The question isn't whether marijuana will be sold and consumed in Jefferson County. That is happening and will continue.
The question is whether Jefferson County will start taking real steps to shut down the black market and begin to reap the benefits of legal marijuana sales.
Marijuana has been bought and sold in Jefferson County for decades; it's just happened in the shadows. It's been sold by people who don't care who they sell to, and who have no stake in anything other than making the next sale. They don't care if they sell to your kid or the person next door. Everyone's a potential customer.
The sad fact is that after 45 years of the war on marijuana, it remains universally available.
Jefferson County now has the opportunity to start strangling the black market and to replace it with a responsible, strictly regulated and controlled industry. The people want this: Marijuana legalization passed with 54 percent support of Jefferson County voters.
Jefferson County faces the following choice: Choose a model similar to alcohol that embraces licensing, regulation, transparency, accountability, and taxation; or stick with the current model where the sale of marijuana is dominated by organized crime, similar to Al Capone's criminal enterprise, and illegal home-grows operate unencumbered throughout Jefferson County neighborhoods.
By allowing licensed marijuana businesses, Jefferson County will improve the economy, create hundreds of jobs, collect millions in new tax revenue, boost real estate and construction, and eliminate many problems caused by black market operators.
The doom and gloom predictions of opponents didn't come to pass. In fact, it's been just the opposite.
- Crime: Denver's violent crime rate has decreased substantially post legalization. In the last year, homicides are down 32 percent and sexual assaults are down 14.7 percent. Traffic fatalities are near record lows in Colorado. Data from the Colorado Department of Transportation shows fatalities plummeted from 743 in 2002 to 481 in 2013.
- Teen use: Since legalization, teen marijuana use in Colorado has dropped from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Teen use also decreased from 24.8 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These decreases happened at the same time that Colorado licensed and regulated over 500 marijuana businesses and legalized marijuana for those 21 and up.
- Colorado's teen marijuana use rate is currently 3.4 percent below the national average of 23.4 percent.
- The economy: Numerous studies show marijuana reform has been a major benefit to Colorado. Colorado has the fastest-growing economy in the nation, according to Business Insider.
- Tourism: The state of Colorado, the city of Denver, and the Colorado ski industry are all reporting record tourism. Colorado is also experiencing record construction and real estate.
- Jobs: According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, there are well over 10,000 jobs in the marijuana industry - and that doesn't include thousands of additional jobs for construction workers, electricians, architects, accountants, security, real estate, legal, law enforcement, and more.
- Public health: A new study shows that legal access to marijuana is associated with fewer prescription drug overdose deaths. Another recent study shows that couples that smoke marijuana are less likely to engage in domestic violence.
By banning licensed, regulated and taxed marijuana businesses, Jefferson County residents would continue to buy from black market operators, or simply purchase marijuana from legal marijuana businesses in neighboring localities. Under this model, Jefferson County will have increased costs trying to fight an uncontrollable black market, but will be transferring the economic benefits and revenue to neighboring localities that opt in.
By opting in, Jefferson County will be following the will of its voters, and will take this unique opportunity to squeeze out the black market, improve the economy, create jobs, enhance revenue, and increase the basic civil liberties of its citizens.
Michael Elliott is an attorney and the executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association of licensed marijuana businesses based in Denver.
Other members of the Jefferson County Marijuana Task Force signing on to this report were Brian Richardson, an independent insurance agency owner; Erin Phillips, owner of Strainwise, Inc.; and attorney Jordan Wellington.
Links to both point and counterpoint are below: