Anti-marijuana group hands out Cheetos with bad data
This is a bag of Cheetos that Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) gave to NORML members at a national NORML conference in Washington, D.C.
It contains a sticker which has five talking points for keeping marijuana illegal. When these points are examined, they are either easily disproved or are gross misrepresentations of the truth stretched in such a way to induce fear without context.
#1. The number of fatal car crashes has doubled since legalization
This references a study by AAA which concluded that the number of people involved in a fatal accident in Washington with marijuana metabolites in their body went from 8 percent to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014. This does not mean these people were impaired, and there was also not a significant increase in fatal accidents between those years. There were a total of 413 in 2013 and 431 in 2014 for an increase of 18 fatal accidents.
#2. Police departments are reporting the black market for marijuana continues to thrive
Black markets fill a demand not being met by legal markets, and this is often due to high taxes and fees, over-regulation, and initial capital and technology constraints in a new industry. Fees in legal states range from $5,000 to $100,000 dollars while taxes can reach 37%, all of which inflates the cost of legal marijuana. This makes it easy for those already in existence on the black market to keep competing, and for some who have lost customers to the legal market, there is still strong demand where the plant is not legal.
#3. Promised tax revenues have failed to shore up state budget shortfalls
Colorado brought in $141 million in marijuana tax revenue in 2016, which exceeded initial estimates. The Colorado state budget was about $36 billion in 2016, which makes marijuana tax revenue account for 0.4 percent of the budget. Alcohol tax revenue amounts to 44 million, or about 0.12 of the budget. The below link gives a breakdown of how the money was spent, which includes funding for education, health care, human services, law enforcement, the environment, public safety, agriculture, and transportation. Others states have received help from cannabis revenues as well.
#4. Arrests of minorities for marijuana possession are up, not down
Arrest rates among adults have drastically dropped in legal states, so the focus now becomes on arrest rates for children, which minorities continue to lead and have steadily seen an increase, even though there aren’t huge racial differences in cannabis consumption, while arrests of white youth have fallen. Marijuana remains illegal for those under 21, and it seems that officers are now spending more time arresting juveniles for possession. Officers say their new focus is complaint driven, and that they are only responding the situation.
#5. Youth marijuana use is increasing
Despite the increase in juvenile arrests in the previous point, consumption among juveniles has not changed much since legalization. For Colorado, consumption has dropped between 2009 and 2015, with 25% saying they used marijuana in the last 30 days in 2009, and 21% answering yes in 2015, which is up 1% from 2013. In Washington, the state has reported that consumption rates among juveniles have stayed the same.