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On Dec. 6, 2012, Washington became the first state in the country to vote to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, an additional 18 states have voted to decriminalize the drug for casual use. 

The thought in many states was that legalizing marijuana would lead to increased tax revenues and lower crime related to the illegal use of marijuana. However, there have been many unintended negative consequences associated with marijuana legalization. Here are several of them: 

Higher crime. In Colorado, one consequence has been an increase in violent crime related to illegal marijuana grows and organized crime. A September report from KRQE in Albuquerque states that, according to one prosecutor, crime has exploded. Prosecutor George Brauchler said he’s had 16 murder cases related to the illegal transaction of marijuana, not to mention many other cases — assaults, burglaries and the like — also related to the drug. 

Illegal grows and cartel activity. Jackson County, Oregon, declared a state of emergency in October because of an “imminent threat to the public health and safety of our citizens from the illegal production of cannabis in our county.” A report from Oregon Public Broadcasting states that the legalization of marijuana there has resulted in hundreds of illegal marijuana grows throughout the state, threatening the safety and security of people who live there. 

Increased use of other drugs. Here in Washington, the state government produces a regular report on the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization. In its 2019 report, the government noted that the number of incidents involving marijuana decreased by 63 percent from 2012 to 2015 (which makes sense, given that it was now legal). However, during that same period, incidents involving amphetamines or methamphetamines increased by 72 percent and those involving heroin increased by 41 percent. This trend continued through 2018, with incidents involving amphetamines, methamphetamines and heroin increasing by about 49 percent since 2016. 

Increased use of tobacco. A study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors noted that “young adults who use marijuana more frequently are likely at risk for greater tobacco exposure, and vice versa.” In other words, the more young people use marijuana, the more they smoke cigarettes. 

Potential harm to children. A study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology noted that “from prenatal exposure to unintentional childhood exposures, through concerns of adolescence abuse and marijuana use for medicinal indications in children, marijuana exposure can affect pediatric patients at every stage in childhood.” 

Increased risk of car crashes. Here at Bostec, we’ve reported in the past on the correlation between marijuana use and a loss of vehicle safety, with vehicle fatalities in Washington state increasing dramatically after 2012, when marijuana was legalized. 

Here at Bostec, we help companies in Whatcom County and throughout the Pacific Northwest craft workplace drug policies and test for drugs such as marijuana to help ensure that employees are not under the influence at work. We’ve been doing it for decades. If you would like help at your company crafting a common-sense drug policy, please give Bostec a call. 

Read more: Should I still test for marijuana? 

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