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America’s attitudes and laws regarding marijuana are changing rapidly, and Colorado has been at the forefront of this change. As one of the first two states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, Colorado has helped dispel the hysterical predictions that legalization would lead to chaos and destruction.
Yet marijuana remains controversial nationwide. A good example of this is an opinion piece written by the executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. In his article, Ed Wojcicki argues that decriminalization and legalization of marijuana somehow makes us “less safe.”
His arguments for keeping marijuana illegal can be summarized as follows:
- There is not yet a reliable breath test to help police detect marijuana impairment in drivers
- There are not yet reliable field sobriety tests that can detect marijuana impairment
- There is supposedly “evidence” that places where marijuana is legal now have higher rates of accidental injury and crimes committed while perpetrators are high
The arguments related to drugged driving are a distraction. About 10,000 people are killed each year in alcohol-related crashes, yet no one is calling for making alcohol illegal (at least not since America’s disastrous experiment with prohibition). Even though marijuana use is now legal in Colorado, drugged driving is not. Drivers can be charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) and driving while ability impaired (DWAI) for violating these laws. As for marijuana breathalyzers and field sobriety tests, these are technological/research issues that don’t overshadow legal arguments.
Finally, it is unwise to trust any arguments about crime that are not backed by statistics or other cited evidence. Contrary to what Wojcicki claims in his article, Colorado has actually seen a decrease in crime and traffic fatalities since recreational marijuana legally went on sale in January 2014.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance:
- Traffic fatalities have decreased by 3 percent
- Violent crime has decreased by 2.2 percent
- Property crime (in Denver) has decreased by 8.9 percent
- Rates of arrest for marijuana possession have dropped by the tens of thousands
Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana has arguably brought major benefits. That being said, individuals are still arrested and charged with drug offenses every day – some of which are related to marijuana. These individuals need the help and advocacy of an experienced criminal defense attorney.