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Denver's Cannabis Revolution: Crime Plummets as Adult-Use Legalization Takes Hold

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View our Fair Use Policy: here By Stone Slade (High At 9 News)




Denver's cannabis landscape has undergone a remarkable transformation since 2012, alleviating concerns about crime and embracing a new era of adult-use legalization. Over the span of almost a decade, the Mile High City has witnessed an impressive 200% decline in cannabis-related offenses, effectively dispelling fears associated with the legalization movement.


The journey began with a decisive ballot initiative in 2012, granting approval for the adult-use of cannabis. By 2014, Colorado had established a well-defined regulatory framework to facilitate legal sales. Advocates of legalization promised a decrease in crime, the allocation of tax revenue to support public programs, and the emergence of a multi-billion dollar industry. As it turns out, these promises were more than mere rhetoric.


According to the annual cannabis report from the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, cannabis-related crime has seen a significant drop since legalization. In 2014, the year of the first legal cannabis sales, Denver reported 788 instances of cannabis-related crimes, both within and outside the industry. Fast forward to the present, and that number has plummeted to a mere 263 cases. In fact, cannabis-related crime now accounts for less than 1% of Denver's overall reported crime, highlighting the substantial progress made in curbing illegal activities.


When I interviewed Colorado Governor Jared Polis, for the Denver episode of "Hittin the High Road," he expressed his views on the positive impact of legalizing cannabis. He stated, "it really helps drive the criminal element out of the cannabis business," emphasizing the role legalization plays in removing illicit operations. Governor Polis further added, "it empowers entrepreneurs and legitimate business people, rather than drug lords or gangs," highlighting the shift towards a more legitimate and responsible industry.


Another significant statistic that complements the overall positive trend is the drastic reduction in DUI/DUID arrests. In 2014, Denver recorded a staggering 2,872 arrests for driving under the influence or driving under the influence of drugs. Last year, that number reached a record low of 1,229, marking a significant milestone in the city's decade-long battle against impaired driving.


However, it's important to note that accurately assessing someone's level of cannabis intoxication remains a challenge. While 2022 witnessed a record number of positive roadside THC tests, it is worth mentioning that these tests alone do not provide a comprehensive measure of impaired driving caused by cannabis on Denver's streets. Due to the complexities of determining cannabis intoxication, finding an accurate and reliable method of testing remains an ongoing concern.


As Denver's cannabis industry continues to evolve, shedding its previous stigma, the city serves as a prime example of how responsible adult-use legalization can effectively reduce crime, empower entrepreneurs, and foster a vibrant economy. The transformative power of cannabis legalization is evident, showcasing a journey of progress and societal change.

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