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Colorado watching numbers closely after legalizing pot PDF Print E-mail

By Tim Linscott

Grant Tribune Sentinel

Is there an influx of people coming into Colorado specifically to use marijuana?
Kathy Green, Communications Director for the Colorado Tourism Office, explains that the state has no specific way of gathering that information.
“While the law has only been in effect a few months now, we have not seen any direct increase or decrease to the tourism industry statewide and we cannot forecast how the law may impact tourism,” Green said. “However, it is important to note that the law specifically bans public consumption of the drug and smoking marijuana in public remains illegal.”
Green stands steadfast that her organization will not use the new legalization of marijuana as a means of promoting tourism.
“Colorado is positioned as a premier four-season destination and the Colorado Tourism Office will continue to market all of the amazing tourist opportunities available to our visitors. We have no plans to use the legalization of the drug to promote the state,” Green said.
The state of Colorado stands to make a sizeable sum from the recreational use of marijuana.
According to a March 10 report by CNBC, recreational marijuana is taxed at 36 percent and state projections of income show that Colorado could make $100 million per year in tax revenue.
In Colorado there are over 150 recreational marijuana dispensaries. Garden City, Colo., with a population of 241 as of  2012, has four shops alone.
One-third of Colorado’s budget is funded by medical marijuana tax dollars.
The idea of legalizing marijuana has picked up steam in the last few years. Twenty states and Washington, D.C. allow medical marijuana and recreational use in Washington State became legal this week. Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island are all considering measures allowing recreational use of marijuana in the next two years.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has asked states to wait two to three years before enacting laws, “to see how it works out,” in Colorado.
The Colorado State Patrol has started keeping track of DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) since Jan. 1 and has begun breaking down statistics on whether a person stopped was impaired while driving under the influence of marijuana alone or in combination with other drugs or alcohol.
As far as patrolling the borders for people carrying marijuana back to their home state, Trooper Josh Lewis of the Colorado State Patrol said the CSP continually tries to educate people that if they leave the state with marijuana to a jurisdiction where it is illegal, there will be legal ramifications.
“In regard to guarding every highway in Colorado, we do not have the manpower to do that,” Lewis said.
Lewis indicated CSP has no formal arrangement with any other state in coordinated enforcement or patrol efforts in marijuana leaving Colorado.
The number of underage marijuana users are being carefully monitored by the CSP, but there is no special effort to crack down specifically on underage marijuana use.
“We aren’t raiding schools or parties. If we come across it, we will handle it accordingly,” Lewis said.
He added that the patrol is always looking to stop people from doing things against the law.
“Marijuana is only one substance. People didn’t drop their pills and other drugs to start using marijuana,” Lewis said. “There are still a lot of substances out there we need to cover.”
Colorado State Patrol officers have had ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement) training to detect marijuana and other drugs in impaired drivers. Lewis notes that it isn’t just marijuana that officers are looking for and have been vigilant about stopping people from making bad judgments since 1935.
“We’ve been here from the start of stopping anyone from doing something illegal. We’re still finding people not understanding and doing things under the influence of substances,” Lewis said. “Our main concern is to educate people and if that needs to come through enforcement, then that is why we are here.”