Colorado overturned the binding and destructive fist of prohibition in 2012 with commercial marijuana sales beginning January 2014. The legalization of a natural plant that has been used for thousands of years for medicinal and recreational purposes was not happy news for everyone. Oklahoma and Nebraska were so upset by the move that they filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court against Colorado in the hopes of having the federal government interfere and once again impose prohibition. Luckily for Colorado, the court rejected the lawsuit and although the states can still take action in lower courts, the rejection of the suit on a federal level is a strong blow to their complaint. But that isn’t where the story ends.
A Survey to Determine Colorado’s Legalization Impact on Kansas
Colorado’s other neighbor, Kansas, decided to take a different approach to the whole matter. Instead of jumping to immediately complaining about the legal industry, Attorney General Derek Schmidt decided to conduct a survey to investigate exactly what the large scale impact of the Colorado weed industry was on Kansas. He talked to 390 people from law enforcement agencies as well as district attorneys. The results are surprising and do not support the claims by the prohibitionists.
A Marked Decrease in Incidents Relating to Colorado Weed
As it turns out, since Colorado weed became available in January 2014, the number of marijuana related stops by the Kansas Highway Patrol has actually decreased and the amount of confiscated marijuana has almost halved. In fact, 75 percent of the state’s counties reported seizing Colorado weed less than 5 times between 2014 and 2015. Not only do these numbers show that Colorado’s marijuana laws are not hurting its neighbors but that the lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska is completely unfounded. Beyond all of this, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado may have helped to shift authorities’ attitudes towards marijuana.
The Changing Attitudes of Law Enforcement
Reporting on the findings of his study, Schmidt wrote, “In some jurisdictions, law enforcement are no longer enforcing marijuana laws much, and even when they do, it has become difficult to win convictions. Users may receive a fine in one county, probation or jail in another and told to move along in others. The criminal justice system is moving in the direction of what appears to be changes in public attitude. Obviously not moving as far as some people would like, but there is obviously an evolution or a change, and this showed that it has reached the enforcement level as well.”
The Ellsworth County DA stated that their jail space is needed to contain “violent offenders, sex criminals, meth head thieves and burglars, and sellers of opioid pills and Mexican brown heroin.” The district attorney’s office in Clark County had the same sentiment, saying officers are even refusing to issue citations or reports for anyone found with personal-use cannabis.
The war on drugs has failed miserably. It has not decreased drug use or drug addiction in any area. In fact it seems to have created an even more dangerous black market and led to many a ruined life. Particularly in the area where cannabis is concerned, a plant with high medicinal use that is safer and healthier than cigarettes and alcohol and has never led to a death, prohibition has failed completely. It has done nothing but lead to a disproportionate amount of minority groups being jailed, with scars on their records that will affect all future employment, education and housing, not to mention the impact on their families. Ending prohibition has led to reduced crime, reduced deaths caused by opioids and has not affected teen use in any way. Studies such as this should help the prohibitionist states recognize what Kansas seems to have already acknowledged. Jails are for socially dangerous offenders committing violent acts, burglary and pushing lethal drugs.