Colorado Now Seeing The Downside Of A Legal High

Less than six months after Colorado became the first state to announce that it was legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, the battle between good and evil with the state's decision still rages on.

The New York Times reported that law enforcement officers in Colorado and neighboring states, emergency room doctors, and legalization opponents have shed light on a series of recent problems as cautionary lessons for other states flirting with loosening marijuana laws.

Recent reports from the state have attempted to trace marijuana as the catalyst for a number of crimes around the city. In one report, officials said a Denver man who, hours after buying a package of marijuana-infused Karma Kandy from one of Colorado's new recreational marijuana shops, began raving about the end of the world and then pulled a handgun from the family safe and killed his wife. Hospital officials also said they have been treating a "growing number" of children and adults sickened by potent doses of edible marijuana. Sheriffs in neighboring states also complained about stoned drivers streaming out of Colorado and through their towns.

Convinced of marijuana's dangers, the DEA and vocal groups of police officers, educators, and public health officials remain steadfastly opposed to the growing legalization movement. Legalization poses significant health and safety risks to Americans, the group argued to Science News. They say the drug wipes out memories, steals IQ points, and triggers psychosis, leaving behind a zombie nation of slackers vegetating in their parents' basements. The group also concluded that the consequences may be especially damaging for teens.

"I think, by any measure, the experience of Colorado has not been a good one unless you're in the marijuana business," said Kevin A. Sabet, executive director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization. "We've seen lives damaged. We've seen deaths directly attributed to marijuana legalization. We've seen marijuana slipping through Colorado's borders. We've seen marijuana getting into the hands of kids."

In January, right after the initiative began, the Colorado State Patrol began tracking the number of people pulled over for driving under the influence of marijuana. Since then, marijuana-impaired drivers have made up about 1.5 percent of all citations for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Proponents of the law argued that officials are nit-picking at the budding industry and such criticism seeks to tarnish the industry's name.

Supporters also argued that the majority of the state's medical and recreational marijuana stores have been on the straight-and-narrow, and have abided by the state's stringent rules. However, the cases in Colorado have been mounting since the law was enacted.

In February, for example, in the Denver suburb of Aurora, a 17-year-old planned to rob an out-of-state marijuana buyer. According to law enforcement officials, he accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend instead.

Colorado is also beginning to see more cases of pot-infused edible treats, such as cookies and chocolates.

In April, a fourth grader showed up on the playground and sold some of his grandmother's marijuana to three classmates. The next day, one of those students returned to the playground bringing in a marijuana treat he had swiped from his own grandmother.

In March, the state recorded its first death directly tied to legal recreational marijuana when a 19-year-old African exchange student, Levy Thamba Pongi, fell to his death after he and three other students had driven from their college in Wyoming to sample Colorado's newly legal ware legal marijuana. Mr. Pongi ate marijuana-infused cookies, began acting wildly, and leapt from a hotel balcony. officials said. The medical examiner's office said marijuana intoxication had made a "significant" contribution to the accident.

Although medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since late 2000, the legal and personal responsibility that comes along with this new law is still attempting to find its footing.

[Photo Credit: Bing]