23 Sep Colorado Measures Cannabis Use and Distribution
The new measure that made marijuana legal in Colorado for recreational use has been watched closely. Not only are advocates for marijuana legalization anxious to see whether Colorado residents will be able to use marijuana without additional regulations, but opponents want to see how the new law plays out.
As expected, there have been some challenges in how marijuana business gets done. Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, which can make banking, paying taxes and other parts of running a dispensary difficult.
However, the marijuana industry has been booming in Colorado. This troubles some health officials, who suggest that marijuana use is not without risk. Studies have connected marijuana use with instances of psychosis, and its full impact on driving ability and other activities is not fully known.
The Colorado Department of Revenue has issued a report entitled, “Market Size and Demand for Marijuana in Colorado,” which provides an overview of the current state of marijuana use in the state.
The report notes that, along with significant changes in regulation of the drug, there have also been major changes in how marijuana has been consumed in recent years. No longer dominated by smoking activities, the drug can now be used through infused lotions or salves where marijuana is absorbed through the skin. It can be consumed in sweets like brownies or lollipops. It can also be vaporized through a “vape pen” in which the flower is heated to release THC, without actually burning it.
In order to estimate marijuana use in Colorado, the state relies on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a function of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. However, the most recent data available from the survey was collected before marijuana was legalized in the state.
The report notes that the demand for marijuana is most significantly impacted by heavy users. Occasional users have little effect on the amount of marijuana consumed. The report shows that while Colorado has a lower overall prevalence of marijuana users (12 percent versus 16 percent), the rate of heavy marijuana users is much higher in Colorado compared to overall population of the U.S. In Colorado, 23 percent of marijuana users report using the drug 26 to 31 times per month, versus 17 percent of the general U.S. population.
There were approximately 549,000 residents in Colorado over the age of 21 that used marijuana in 2010 or 2011, equating to about 13 percent of the population of the state. Of those, about 343,000 report that they used marijuana once per month, equal to 9 percent of the state population.
An additional 149,000 marijuana users are under the age of 21. This number is important, because it helps policymakers understand the gray areas of marijuana distribution and demand. In addition, the authors of the report assume that the demand and distribution for marijuana is significantly underreported.
Using this data and additional information, the report’s authors estimate that there are currently approximately 686,000 yearly users of marijuana, of which 485,000 are monthly users.
Both proponents and opponents are interested to see how the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado affects multiple areas of policy. Observing trends in distribution and demand will likely be important for shaping policy related to marijuana in future years.
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