New Report: Legal Marijuana Having Deadly Impact in Colorado

Colorado HIDTA report highlights increases in marijuana-related traffic fatalities and marijuana use by kids

ALEXANDRIA, VA – A new report, released yesterday by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) office, shows a dramatic spike in traffic-related fatalities attributed to marijuana use in the almost four years since the state legalized the drug. Drivers testing positive for marijuana were a factor in 21 percent of all Colorado traffic deaths in 2015, up from only 10 percent in 2009. 
At the same time, Colorado now ranks number one in past-month marijuana use among youths and college-age adults. Moreover, youth past-month use is now 74 percent higher than the national average, up from 39 percent higher than the national average in 2011-12.
“This information, compiled from publicly available statistics, is yet another example of hard data demonstrating what we have already suspected to be true: that legalized marijuana policies have a tremendously negative — and costly —  impact on public health and safety, especially on our roads,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “Reports like this continue to prove that corporate, commercial interests are being prioritized over the well-being of our communities.”
According to the study, the increasing frequency of marijuana use correlates with a higher frequency of traffic deaths related to the drug. Marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado have increased 62 percent since 2013, immediately after marijuana was legalized. And despite medical and recreational marijuana businesses being banned in 68 percent of local jurisdictions, there are still a total of 940 retail marijuana stores and marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, more than all the 322 Starbucks locations and 202 McDonald’s in the state combined.
Jo McGuire, co-chair of SAM’s Colorado affiliate and president & CEO of 5 Minutes of Courage, a Colorado advocacy group for drug-free communities, workplaces, and youth, commented, “These outcomes are certainly not what Colorado voters intended when they were promised ‘controls.’ It is time Colorado policy makers are held accountable to protect the citizens who were duped by the marijuana industry.”
“Colorado has become a corporate free-for-all for pot businesses,” said Jeffrey Zinsmeister, SAM’s Executive Vice President. “As the report shows, the marijuana industry is rapidly becoming the next Big Tobacco, placing profits before public health and public safety.”
The full Rocky Mountain HIDTA report can be found here.
For more information about marijuana policy, please visit http://www.learnaboutsam.org.

“Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings” Release

LAKEWOOD, CO- The Colorado Department of Public Safety today announced the release of “Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings,” its first official report evaluating the impact of the state’s historic legalization of marijuana on public safety, public health, and Colorado’s kids.

The report draws from local, state, federal, and private data sets to examine post-legalization trends in marijuana consumption, marijuana-related arrests, marijuana-related emergency room admissions, and marijuana-impaired driving, among others. Importantly, its findings should be interpreted with caution: The lack of historical, pre-commercialization data on marijuana, the decreasing social stigma surrounding marijuana use, and enforcement challenges inherent to the implementation of Colorado’s new and complex marijuana laws combine to make it difficult to translate these early findings into definitive outcomes.
“This report is a two-year snapshot of the impact of marijuana legalization on Colorado’s kids, families, and communities,” said Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety. “While we still can’t draw any long-term conclusions, today Colorado continues to make history by establishing an objective, data-backed baseline against which all future assessments of marijuana legalization, both in Colorado and around the world, will be weighed.”
Key findings include:
  • Among those 18-25 years old, marijuana usage has increased from 21 percent in 2006 to 31 percent in 2014.
  • Among those 26 or older, marijuana usage has increased from 5 percent in 2006 to 12 percent in 2014.
  • 33% of marijuana users who have reported marijuana use in the past 30 days have used daily. 
  • Marijuana-related arrests have decreased by 46 percent between 2012 and 2014, while possession arrests were cut in half and sales arrests have decreased by 24 percent. 
  • The trend for high school students ever using marijuana has declined from 42.4 percent in 2005 to 36.9 percent in 2013. The percentage of high school students currently using marijuana has decreased from 22.7 percent to 19.7 percent over the same period. Youth use in Colorado remains above the national average. 
  • Marijuana-related hospitalizations have increased from a rate of 803 per 100,000 pre-commercialization to 2,413 per 100,000 post-commercialization. 
  • The period of retail commercialization showed a significant increase in emergency department visits, from 739 per 100,000 (2010–2013) to 956 per 100,000 emergency department visits (2014–June 2015).
  • The prevalence of marijuana as the impairing substance among DUIs has increased from 12% in 2014 to 15% in 2014, although the total number of marijuana-related DUIDs decreased slightly. 
  • In the 2014-15 school year, school-based discipline for drugs accounted for 41% of all expulsions, 31% of all law enforcement referrals, and 6% of all suspensions in Colorado. 
The report may be accessed here:

Health Care Leaders Announce Support of Ballot Measure To Opt Out Of Marijuana Commercialization

PUEBLO, COLO. – (April 27, 2016) – Earlier today, Parkview Medical Center, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and Pueblo Community Health Center, came together in support of a ballot measure that would end commercialization and promotion of recreational marijuana in the city and county of Pueblo. All three organizations spoke on behalf of their community boards and strongly believe the impact of retail marijuana is endangering the health of Pueblo community and draining precious health resources. Full article.


NYU Cannabis Summit Unveils Stunning Information

“Americans now consume about 6,500 metric tons of marijuana a year and spend something on the order of 40 billion hours a year under its influence,” Professor Jon Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College, told conferees in his keynote address at the Cannabis Science & Policy Summit in New York April 17. The two-day summit was hosted by the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University. He argued that the change in the number of hours under the influence will be the most important marijuana-specific outcome of legalization, so it is important to understand what proportion of those hours are associated with harmless pleasure and what proportion reflect problem use.

“If we continue down a ‘regulate like alcohol’ legalization path, which allows for-profit corporations to produce, distribute, and promote marijuana, in 25 years the public health community and some of the public may be asking those of us living in 2016, “What were you thinking? Why did you think it was a good idea to create another industry whose profits depend on promoting daily and near daily use of a dependence-inducing intoxicant?”



United Nations Affirms Support for International Drug Control Conventions

PRESS RELEASE                                                 CONTACT: Jeff Zinsmeister                          
April 21, 2016                                                                 
United Nations Affirms Support for International Drug Control Conventions
Historic global meeting emphasizes commitment to preventing and reducing drug use around the world
New York, NY – The UN General Assembly convened this week in New York City to reaffirm the global commitment to the international drug conventions. These conventions, whose goal is to prevent and reduce drug use worldwide, remain the cornerstone of global drug policy.
“We congratulate countries for recognizing that drug use is a public health and public safety problem around the world,” said Kevin Sabet, a former White House advisor on drug policy and founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).  “Speaking as one of over 300 non-governmental organizations that joined together at the UN to show commitment to drug prevention, ‘Prevent. Don’t Promote.’ this event marks a real step forward in advancing those goals. Now the real challenge is implementation.”
“Prevent. Don’t Promote.” is a campaign sponsored by numerous organizations that support the UN international drug conventions and want to see a public health and safety based policy centered on the prevention of drug use and drug problems.
“Despite the rhetoric about rifts in the global consensus on drug policy, the reality on the ground is the UN and member states are upholding principles in line with the drug conventions,” remarked Erik Leijonmarck, of ECAD (European Cities Action Network For Drug-Free Societies). “Moreover, this same misleading rhetoric obscures the real progress being made to scale up public health interventions in drug policy.”
Though NGOs were supportive of the meeting and outcome, there remains room for improvement on international drug policy.
“The UN final outcome document contains a number of positive steps, e.g. in areas of prevention, health and alternatives to incarceration for drug-related crime, even if we would have liked to see stronger language in certain areas. We are disappointed, however, that the Member States have failed to agree on the abolition of the death penalty for drug crimes.  We now urge the Member States to act on the policies they have agreed to,” said Stig Erik Sørheim, president of Eurad, a European network for prevention, treatment and recovery.
Additionally, Asia Ashraf, Head of the Department of Psychology at Sunnytrust in Islamabad, Pakistan, remarked, “While there was a good emphasis on gender issues as they relate to drug policy, we need to put more emphasis on the rights of children born with addiction. Ignoring this aspect of policy will result in devastating consequences by reinforcing the cycle of poverty and deprivation. Countries must avoid myopic approaches to drug policy.”
Also this week, global scientists released a new call to action reflecting “a growing consensus among experts that frequent cannabis use can increase the risk of psychosis in vulnerable people and lead to a range of other medical and social problems” according to the The Guardian. It was reported that researchers now believe the evidence for harm is strong enough to issue clear warnings. This is in line with a recent World Health Organization report on the harms of cannabis.
Dag Endal from FORUT-Norway remarked, “Prevention is effective, humane, cost-effective and empowering.”
“The global community made another step into the right direction in tackling the world drug problem,” said Kristina Sperkova, President of IOGT International. “The UNGASS 2016 outcome document contains several achievements, including a long menu of comprehensive, balanced and effective policy interventions that will prevent and reduce drug-related harm. That is possible only if implemented. We will hold our governments accountable for translating words into action.”
Side events supported by “Prevent Don’t Promote” included discussions about the harms of drug legalization, especially on youth; the promise of recovery from drug addiction; the pernicious activities of global addiction industries; and the promising outcomes of prevention around the world.

Statement by Health Commissioner Chen related to marijuana legalization in Vermont

VT Health Department

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 9:10 AM

The Vermont Department of Health finds no compelling public health reason to legalize marijuana.

Whether or not it is legalized, the evidence shows that using marijuana negatively affects physical health, mental health and academic achievement, especially for youth and young adults. Early and regular use of any psychoactive drug increases the risk for lifelong problems due to addiction. If marijuana is legalized, the market must be strongly regulated to prevent or to lessen the health impacts that could result.

Taking lessons from tobacco and alcohol, if marijuana is legalized the Health Impact Assessment<http://healthvermont.gov/pubs/healthassessments/index.aspx> recommends first putting in place strong infrastructure to support regulation, and well-funded prevention, countermarketing, enforcement and monitoring.

Harry Chen, MD

Commissioner of Health


Neuroscientist adds voice to warnings about legal pot

Dr. Madras

Opponents of legalizing marijuana gathered under the Statehouse dome Wednesday for Prevention Awareness Day, holding workshops and discussions regarding substance abuse and the possible impacts of legal weed in the Green Mountain State.

The events were organized by Prevention Works VT, a coalition aimed at reducing drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

Dr. Bertha Madras, a neuroscientist from Harvard Medical School, was given an award for her prevention efforts, and she offered her own thoughts against legalization in a news conference.

Portraying Vermont as being at a crossroads over whether to legalize and normalize cannabis use, Madras said political talks on the issue have been devoid of scientific considerations.

Read the full article here.

Marijuana Legalization Will Cost Taxpayers

Links to an increase in schizophrenia alone could wipe out any revenues from legalized pot, new study says

The white paper, co-authored by Christine Miller, Ph.D., a pharmacologist specializing in neuroscience, takes to task the major report used to support the legalization movement for failing to account for documented and well-researched links between marijuana use and mental health disorders, and the costs of treating them. To learn more, click to read the:

 Press Release

Executive Summary

Marijuana Use and the Cost of Increased Schizophrenia


The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact



Latest Results for Colorado Youth and Adult Marijuana Use

January, 2016

This report on marijuana use in Colorado is an update of the publication The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact Volume 3.  Results- Jan 2016 Release


Dear Friends,

We’re off to a great start in 2016, and there are a few things I wanted to alert you on this week. I’ll send these emails out from time to time to keep you updated on developments not served well by our press releases or reports.

First, we have a new flyer on edibles that we hope is useful in your work.

Second, I’m thrilled with the momentum we have been able to generate in Vermont – a state where just a few weeks ago we were counted out by the political elite. Because of the hard work of our SAM Vermont affiliate, we went from what some were calling a fait accompli to a pitched battle over legalization in the state legislature. Watch for SAM Action to generate some ads there soon. Things are about to heat up!

Third, there has been a lot of confusion over some studies purporting no IQ drop among marijuana users. Once again, this is media spin at its worst. I reached out to my friend Madeline Meier who summed up her thoughts on the matter here. I hope it’s helpful to you. Related to this, today the American Psychological Association (APA) corrected a 2015 study that previously found no connection between teen marijuana use and psychotic symptoms.  Turns out that after re-analyzing their own data, the researchers found that this link does in fact exist.  (See the editor’s note for the correction.)  The APA’s comment comes a day after SAM’s own press release on the issue.

Fourth, speaking of spin, the International Business Times’ Joel Warner published an insightful article about the very issue of media bias and marijuana.  An excerpt below the text of this email is below.

There’s a lot more, but I’ll stop for now. Next week I’ll share some exciting news about a new report on Colorado as well as some steps we’re taking related to the Presidential race. I hope everyone is well.




Marijuana Has Become A Media Darling, But Are Journalists Too Soft On Pot?


On the evening of Thursday, Dec. 17, Kevin Sabet was working on what he believed would be a bombshell. Sabet, founder of the anti-marijuana legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), had received a tip from someone associated with the Obama administration: State marijuana-use estimates for 2013 and 2014, which had just been released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that Colorado, which launched the country’s first legalized marijuana program in 2014, now led the nation in monthly marijuana use among those 12 to 17 years old. The development was due in part to decreases in marijuana use in other states, although youth marijuana use in Colorado had also increased slightly. The District of Columbia, Oregon and Washington, all of which have also legalized marijuana, came in at fourth, fifth and sixth places in the rankings, respectively.

“What went through our heads was, ‘This is big news,'” says Sabet. “We felt this would absolutely reach a wide audience.” After all, the day before, the National Institutes of Health’s 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, which found that nationwide teen marijuana use had fallen slightly overall, had received widespread coverage. Wouldn’t this report generate major headlines, too?

Sabet rushed out a press release. Then he waited for the onslaught of calls he expected from reporters. Instead, all he heard was crickets.

The lack of media response to the survey numbers leads to the question: After decades of critical reporting on marijuana issues, if they bothered to cover the subject at all, have the media as a whole moved too far in the opposite direction? Are reporters and editors now so high on the topic of cannabis that they’re going too soft on the subject?

A Google News analysis of how the media covered two youth marijuana-use surveys in December indicates SAM may have a reason to feel snubbed. Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, there were at least 156 news reports on the Monitoring the Future report, which many have interpreted as being supportive of the marijuana movement (as the Washington Post noted of its data,”The case for marijuana legalization just got stronger”). During the same period, Google News recorded just 17 stories on the SAMHSA report, which, according to Sabet, raises questions about legalization.

The SAMHSA figures weren’t necessarily less newsworthy. As drug-policy expert Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine, notes: “Any state considering whether or how to legalize marijuana needs to pay close attention to this new data on teenagers in Colorado and Washington. It could be nothing, but I don’t think it should be dismissed.”

This informal analysis is far from a perfect comparison, as even SAM staffers suggest. “In fairness, there could be media fatigue on this,” says Jeffrey Zinsmeister, the organization’s executive vice president. “You have two stories on marijuana-use surveys, and the first story gets all the coverage and then people move on to the next thing.” Still, Zinsmeister finds striking the extent of the imbalance, with the survey results bolstering legalization efforts generating nearly 10 times as many headlines as the more unflattering data. “I was surprised to see such a large swing on this,” he says.

Even longtime marijuana advocates say media coverage has shifted. “Back in the ’90s, I would be the only person on the TV show on the issue in favor of reform, and there would be a cop, a prosecutor and a drug specialist, along with the host, who would also be anti-marijuana,” says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Now, today, Kevin [Sabet] is the one who has to scramble because the host of the show is neutral or supportive of reform, and I am joined by someone from the marijuana-business community and a member of [the pro-legalization group] Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.”

Read the rest here… 



December 16, 2015
12:01 a.m.
Contact: Jeffrey Zinsmeister
+1 (415) 680-3993
[WASHINGTON, DC] – The nation’s annual school survey of drug use, Monitoring the Future (MTF), shows marijuana use among adolescents, including heavy marijuana use, remaining stubbornly high and significantly higher than in 2008 — despite reductions across the board among the other three substances kids use most.
“Why is marijuana use not dropping like the use of other substances? The answer is likely the dramatic rise in marijuana commercialization and industrialization,” said Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, a former White House drug policy advisor who serves now as President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “It may also be why daily marijuana use is at near-record levels. And this doesn’t even include teens not going to school.”
Moreover, this year’s survey may underestimate minors’ marijuana use. Of most concern is its exclusive focus on use of “marijuana/hashish.” The term is not well-defined given the explosion of popular edible marijuana products, which at the end of 2014 comprised approximately 45% of the legalized Colorado marijuana market. and are also common in states that allow “medical marijuana” sales. That narrow focus may also exclude highly concentrated products such as butane hash oil (BTO), waxes, and resins (“shatter”), which have also gained in popularity. It therefore remains unclear whether survey respondents identified use of all of the above products as “marijuana/hashish” use.
The survey also excludes high school dropouts, who are more likely to use marijuana than their peers.
“This year’s survey shows how, in an era of falling overall drug, cigarette, and alcohol use — an achievement made possible by years of effort and millions of dollars of public funding — marijuana use among kids remains strong,” remarked Dr. Sabet.
“We should look no further than the powerful marijuana industry that is promoting marijuana use and selling products like marijuana sodas and gummi bears,” Sabet added. “It has counteracted the hard work and advances made by drug prevention advocates, all in favor of financial gain.”
“Furthermore, the survey may not adequately address use of modern, mass-manufactured edible marijuana products, which are extremely popular. It also excludes dropouts, who use at a higher rate. So the study’s indication that two students in every average classroom of high school seniors is using “marijuana/hashish” daily may underrepresent the impact the marijuana industry is really having on America’s youth.”
According to statements from the American Medical Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American Psychiatric Association, marijuana use, especially among youth, should be avoided, and legalization efforts opposed.
“Medical research is very clear that marijuana is both addictive and harmful,” noted Dr. Stu Gitlow, immediate past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “One in six adolescents that use marijuana develop an addiction, and use is associated with lower IQ, lower grades, and higher dropout rates in that same population. It is therefore of significant concern that this year’s study may actually underreport marijuana use and downplay its impact.”
Meanwhile, the toll of legalized marijuana continues to climb in Colorado and Washington. For example, a 2015 report indicated that the percentage of DUIs linked to marijuana use in Washington state has almost doubled since legalization, from 18.6% in 2012 to 33% in early 2015. That same report indicated that a full 85% of drivers involved in fatal accidents in Washington tested positive for recent marijuana use. Similarly, marijuana poisonings in Colorado rose 147% from legalization in 2012 to 2014, and was up 52% in Washington during that same timeframe.
“Additionally, a powerful marijuana industry lobby has emerged that sued Colorado to stop restrictions on advertising to protect children, and is now pushing back against municipal regulations in Oregon to keep pot stores away from schools and day care facilities,” commented Jeffrey Zinsmeister, SAM’s Executive Vice President. “Like other addictive industries, marijuana needs to create and maintain heavy users to maximize revenues. It is taking a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook, and expect to see more of the same as big companies put their bottom line before public health.”
For more information about marijuana use and its effects, see http://www.learnaboutsam.org.

UVM Health Director Challenges Marijuana Assumptions

“The adverse health impacts of marijuana use are serious, especially among young people, and should not be eclipsed by economic considerations driving the debate.”

Dr. Jon Kevin Porter, director, University of Vermont Center for Health and Wellbeing recently published an editorial on the Burlington Free Press website, in which he clearly states his concerns about the effort to legalize commercial sales of marijuana for recreational use:

“Student success at the University of Vermont does not happen by accident. It requires bringing full attention and energy to bear on the task of each day and taking full advantage of the many opportunities designed to support students in reaching their educational, social and career goals and their developmental maturity. A critical question students across the country must answer is what role the use of alcohol and marijuana will play in their daily lives. Often depicted as simply “part of college,” the misuse of these substances creates serious obstacles to success.

Addressing a problem effectively requires identifying and naming it as such. I write to share concerns raised by a growing body of evidence regarding both the short- and long-term consequences of the misuse of marijuana — a perspective shared by many medical researchers, scientists and clinicians. These concerns are heightened by a roughly fivefold increase in the potency of the drug over recent years and are especially relevant for those who initiate use in adolescence and early adulthood.”

He goes on to describe the growing number of high school and college students who are using it regularly, at the same time that more and more young people are beginning to think it is harmless, and lists some of the negative impacts being detailed by new research. He then concludes “…I am convinced that regular use of marijuana presents a powerful impediment to student engagement and success at the University of Vermont — as it does in our high schools and educational institutions nationwide.”

This is an excellent, science-based article that is also based on years of daily experience with students struggling with the physical, emotional, and cognitive effects of marijuana.

Read Dr. Porter’s full letter on the Free Press web site. [link this text to:

See also Dr. Porter’s December 2014 interview on the Judge Ben Show. [link this text to:


Teen counselors push back on pot legalization

High school counselors worry that rates of teen marijuana use, which have declined overall in the past two decades, would rise if the Legislature decides to allow recreational marijuana use for adults.

Tim Trevithick, a student assistance program counselor at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, senses a mood change already.

Students expect Vermont to legalize recreational marijuana, Trevithick said — and that changes the way they think about the drug. Meanwhile, the marijuana that’s available is more potent than in the past.

Read more about what Tim and others have to say here.