Jeff Hunt, the Vice President of Public Policy at Colorado Christian University, wrote in a recent opinion piece in USA Today:

In the years since, Colorado has seen an increase in marijuana related traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room visits. The marijuana black market has increased in Colorado, not decreased. And, numerous Colorado marijuana regulators have been indicted for corruption.


According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, arrests in Colorado of black and Latino youth for marijuana possession have increased 58% and 29% respectively after legalization. This means that Black and Latino youth are being arrested more for marijuana possession after it became legal.

It seems unlikely that legalizing something would lead to an increase in black market activity around it. So, is the claim true?

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    A good answer to this question will probably reference this document: documentcloud.org/documents/…
    – Adam
    Aug 7 '17 at 19:05
  • This question can't be answered as phrased since "pot"/marijuana is not yet legal in Colorado, so it is referencing an undetermined point in the future.
    – user34490
    Aug 10 '17 at 15:27
  • And since it is still illegal, and that it is quite trivial to show an increase in use/sales since 2012, it is also trivial to show an increase in black market use/sales. It is not clear what you are asking. The only possible meaning I can think of is "The quantitative difference between what is considered unregulated use/sales currently and what would be considered unregulated if the federal law changed."
    – user34490
    Aug 10 '17 at 16:45
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    @Physics-Compute: Why the pedantry? Yes, technically the federal government hasn't de-criminalized marijuana. However, generally they don't prosecute people for simple possession of small amounts of pot. To my knowledge, they have not prosecuted anyone in Colorado since the state eliminated its prohibition. In effective, the drug is legal there, unless the (relatively) new administration in Washington changes direction in this area.
    – GreenMatt
    Aug 11 '17 at 3:17
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    It's legal de facto, if not legal de jure. However, somebody could certainly claim all sales of marijuana are on the black market since it's still technically federally illegal. That's a technically true although very misleading interpretation. Oct 18 '17 at 16:26

This question has one claim in the title and four others in the body

1. The black market in Colorado has increased since legalization

Possible. There are claims many places including here that legalization has created an environment where illegal and quasi-legal growers can grow and export to other states.

But that's unlikely to be correlated with increased black market sales within Colorado, since it's only illegal for teenagers and children, and statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.

2. Increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths

Contrary to the data. A Drug Policy Alliance study says:

Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

3. Increase in poison control calls

Contrary to the data. According to the Denver Post:

Three years into regulated sales of recreational cannabis, the Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee says calls to poison control and marijuana-related emergency room visits are down, even though overall consumption of pot remains steady — signs that existing policy and education efforts may be working.

4. Increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits

Partly, but that may be due to increased reporting (decreased hiding of marijuana usage). A recent report from Colorado's Department of Public Safety says:

[...] it is too early to draw any conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization or commercialization on public safety, public health, or youth outcomes, and this may always be difficult due to the lack of historical data. Furthermore, the information presented here should be interpreted with caution. The decreasing social stigma regarding marijuana use could lead individuals to be more likely to report use on surveys and to health workers in emergency departments and poison control centers, making marijuana use appear to increase when perhaps it has not.

5. Arrests of black and Latino youths for possession have increased (58% and 29%)**

Unlikely. According to the same Drug Policy Alliance study:

Arrests in [all states] and Washington, D.C. for the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana have plummeted since voters legalized the adult use of marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.

The quote above from the pdf says "all states", but refers to the set of states studied (in which recreational marijuana was legalized). Here's a quote from the summary (also from the DPA) of the study:

Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.

Specifics about youth arrests has been hard to find since the airspace is dominated by people worried about the white-vs-minority arrest rates. There's a Colorado Department of Public Safety report which finds

The types of filings did change, with an increase in public consumption and offenses within 1,000 feet of schools, and a decrease for minor in possession and offenses around the 16th Street Mall.

(NOTE: not necessarily minors, but the "schools" part is suggestive)

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    "This question has one claim in the title and two different ones in the body" - Check the editing history and you'll see that it didn't originally, but a moderator edited it. Thanks for the answer.
    – GreenMatt
    Aug 7 '17 at 19:48
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    "Increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room visits" contains three claims. You responded to one, although your response answers a different claim than was made. Claim: traffic deaths involving marijuana increased. You responded that overall traffic deaths (for all reasons) have been constant. Both claims could be true if traffic deaths overall were steady but the percentage associated with marijuana increased. In regards to your #3, Washington, DC is not Colorado.
    – Brythan
    Aug 7 '17 at 21:11
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    @Brythan - "In all states and Washington DC" would include Colorado as one of the states. Having overall arrests go down (especially if it's significantly enough that "plummeted" is accurate) across that group would at least make it pretty improbable that they'd gone up in Colorado specifically. (I believe that it was only referring to the legalizing states, though.)
    – Ben Barden
    Aug 7 '17 at 21:13
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    @Brythan No it doesn't. It claims "traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room visits" have gone up, meaning all gone up. Proving one of them has not disproves the claim no? Your second point is valid though...
    – Vality
    Aug 7 '17 at 21:29
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    While marijuana is now legal, the taxes are pretty steep which would create an incentive to sell it under the table. Aug 7 '17 at 22:10

The last paragraph does appear to be true, at least in the first couple of years. It is based on a study by the Colorado Department of Health.

The report found a huge gap in numbers in relation to how adolescents, ages 10-17 were being in arrested, which apparently was contingent upon their race. While there was an eight percent decrease in arrest of white kids for marijuana from 2012-2014, black juvenile arrests shot up by 58 percent, and Latino arrests followed that increase by 29 percent.

This is not down to disparities in use. There isn't a big racial difference in usage (and for what there is, they found Hispanics use it less than whites).

NPR asked the spokesman for the Denver Police Department about the disparity, and he blamed it on the citizens of Denver rather than the department.

"Most of these cases are complaint-driven," Jackson says. "We get a complaint from someone, we're not sure where it's going to take us, but we have to act on it. And we're not sure, if I get a call to a residence or to a location, who I'm going to encounter until I get there."

Their drug policy expert pointed out that a lot of that disparity may in fact be down to the extra policing that minority neighborhoods get.

But whatever's going on there, I don't think there's any evidence (or arguments) that legalization itself is the root of the problem.

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