According to Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, following the opening of the first adult-use dispensaries in the state in 2014—two years after voters legalized cannabis through the passage of Amendment 64—more than 500 shops have opened since.
Officials in Weld County, Colorado say that there are more than twice as many recreational cannabis dispensaries than there are Starbucks coffee shops in the state.
This week, the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment announced the launch of a campaign titled Marijuana is Not Harmless, stating that, despite its high availability and societal acceptance, “recreational marijuana use has a downside.”
“We acknowledge Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana,” says Weld County Health Department Executive Director. “However, the general public, and especially youth, need to understand that marijuana use is not harmless. There are consequences to driving impaired and using frequent amounts of marijuana.”
Citing the annual Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report for 2019, The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact, Volume 6, officials stated in a press release that the yearly number of cannabis-related emergency room visits have increased 53 percent since 2013 and the yearly number of hospitalizations have increased 101 percent.
The release also states that accidents with drivers who tested positive for cannabis have more than doubled since legalization and that adult cannabis use in Colorado is 96 percent higher than the national average.
The director for the federally-funded Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Tom Gorman, acknowledged to Westword in 2018 that some of the data assembled for the agency’s reports is opinion-based and might not survive a scientific survey.
In 2018, Forbes alleged that the supposedly neutral agency stacks the deck against cannabis legalization by changing the numbers.
To spread the message of their Marijuana is Not Harmless campaign, Weld County is using outdoor billboard advertisements that are located by high-traffic corridors as well as marketing through social media.