Vote 4 NM: Coloradans warn New Mexicans about consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana | KOB 4

Vote 4 NM: Coloradans warn New Mexicans about consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana

Kassi Nelson
October 05, 2018 12:36 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – People in Colorado have a warning for New Mexicans who favor legalizing recreational marijuana.


Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said since Colorado decriminalized marijuana, Fort Collins has become a magnet for transients.

“A large percent of those come to us with serious criminal histories,” Sheriff Smith said. “It's very typical to hear from them, ‘You know what? We came here for the marijuana.”

Sheriff Smith said 1/3 of the county jail’s inmates are homeless transients.

“We saw an increase in jail population up until this year, every year by just about 50 inmates,” he said.

Sheriff Smith said the black market for marijuana is still thriving, despite many pro-marijuana advocates saying it would die.

“You can share with New Mexicans that's not what happened here,” he said. “The illicit market is bigger than it's ever been before.”

The entire State of Colorado is experiencing a spike in crime, outpacing the national average.

According to the latest statistics from the FBI, Colorado saw a 14 percent increase in violent crime from the time the commercial sale of marijuana began in 2014 to 2016. Nationally, the increase was 7 percent.

Colorado saw an 8 percent increase in property crime in the same period. Nationally, property crime decreased by 4 percent.

Marijuana advocates don’t believe you can attribute the rise in crime to marijuana. They blame Colorado’s booming population.

“We've seen teen use go down,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, who is running for mayor of Denver. “We've seen a reduction in opiate dependency, overdoses, and things like that.”

However, Colorado transportation officials say a larger population and legal marijuana leads to more problems.

“We are seeing a lot of marijuana users, far too many, tell us that they drive after using marijuana and we're concerned the same stigma with alcohol and driving just isn't there when it comes to marijuana,” said Sam Cole, Traffic Safety Spokesperson for CDOT. 

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 10 percent of traffic fatalities, involving a drugged driver, had marijuana in their system.

In 2017, 35 people were killed by high drivers. In 2016, that number was 52.

Advocates for victims of drugged driving say lawmakers need to do more to address the problem.

Ed Wood's son, Brian, was killed in a crash eight years ago in Washington before Marijuana was legal.

The driver was high on marijuana and methamphetamine.

Brian's pregnant wife and their unborn baby survived.

“Brian never knew that he was the father of a baby girl that he wanted so badly,” said Wood.

Wood said Washington's laws didn't bring his family justice and he claims Colorado's laws to convict drugged drivers are even weaker.

“People believe there should be some sort of magical number of THC in blood that correlates with impairment but that's not the case,” Wood said.

While it's complicated to measure and prove impairment, Sheriff Smith said officers do what they can
with drug recognition experts.

He said he has a message for New Mexicans who would like to see recreational marijuana become legal in the state.

‘I would urge them to be very cautious, do their own research. I can tell them the industry is tremendously effective at strategy and marketing,” Sheriff Smith said.


Kassi Nelson

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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