washington state marijuana impact report

Washington state marijuana impact report

  • Pot is disrupting the classroom.

Recreational marijuana is driving more young teens to smoke in states with legalization and may be normalizing pot use among young Americans.

Among 8th and 10th graders in Washington, perceived harmfulness of marijuana use decreased and marijuana use increased following legalization of recreational marijuana use in 2014. (Source: Association of State Recreational Marijuana Laws with Adolescent Marijuana Use,” Original Investigation, Journal Club, JAMA Pediatr. published December 27, 2016)

The numbers in Washington are leaving health officials anxious over the potential unintended consequences of recreational marijuana legalization.

“While legalization for recreational purposes is currently limited to adults, potential impacts on adolescent marijuana use are of particular concern,” Magdalena Cerdб, a researcher at UC Davis and lead author of the study, told PsyPost. “Some adolescents who try marijuana will go on to chronic use, with an accompanying range of adverse outcomes, from cognitive impairment to downward social mobility, financial, work-related and relationship difficulties.” (Source: “Legal Weed has the Exact Effect on Teens Everyone Feared,” Steve Birr, The Daily Caller News Foundation, December 28, 2016)

98% of student drug violations were due to marijuana in Seattle Public Schools between September of 2013 and May of 2014.

77% of all alcohol and drug violations in Seattle schools were related to marijuana from September 2014 to January 2015.

45% of Washington Poison Center calls in 2014 were made by or for youth under the age of 20. The number of those calls has since increased to 80% since legalization.

Calls related to marijuana edibles and other products infused with marijuana have taken a big leap at the Washington Poison Center since legalization, especially related to youth. The center has logged 312% more calls related to infused products, and calls related to marijuana oil jumped 350% over three years. A report published by the center in 2014 states that children under the age of 18 account for 50% of their intoxication calls related to chocolate and candy, with 25% of the reports related to goods baked with marijuana.

  • Adults in Washington state rank among the highest users of marijuana in the nation. According to a national survey that studies past-month marijuana use, Washington State young adults (between 18 and 25) and use by adults older than 26 was an overall 5% higher than the national average in 2012-2013.

Big Business

    Marijuana is big business in Washington. Between June 2014 and the end of July 2015, the state generated nearly $308 million in sales. This includes all sales from producers, processors, and retailers. Retail sales now surpass $2 million per day, according to the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board.

  • Cookies and desserts comprise nearly 70% of the state approved marijuana-infused products in most stores.
    • Legal marijuana production is balanced about equally between counties in western Washington and eastern Washington, although the number of retail stores in western Washington far exceeds stores east of the Cascades. The counties with the highest total number of licenses issued (including producer, processor and retailer) are King, Snohomish, Spokane and Okanogan, with Spokane County the highest at 189 of which 97 are licensed growers. Okanogan has the second highest number of licensed growers at 42.
    • Seventeen THC extraction lab explosions occurred in Washington in 2014. THC is the component of marijuana that produces the “high,” and is used to make products like high-THC concentrates and oils. Extraction processes typically include the use of highly flammable butane gas, which can be ignited by static electricity from clothing or even a refrigerator cycling.


    • The incidents of marijuana-impaired driving are increasing. Drivers with active THC in their blood who were in a fatal driving accident have risen 122% from 2010 (16) to 2014 (23) according to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission.
    • 32,059 grams of illegally possessed marijuana were seized during the first nine months of 2015 off highways and interstates across Washington.
    • A strong relationships exists between crime and marijuana use, with a stark rise in marijuana related incidents following legalization, according to data provided by the Spokane Valley and Seattle police departments.
    • Cannabis grown in the Evergreen State is being illegally exported across America. Since legalization in 2012, Washington-grown marijuana was destined for 43 states across the United States, despite measures in the initiative that aimed at stopping it at state lines.

    • Marijuana is being sold and moving through the mail. Since 2012, 320 pounds of Washington origin marijuana was seized via parcel detection.

    What We Have Learned

    • “The decision to legalize marijuana was not without harm,” according to data compiled in this report. “Unfortunately, many of the reported outcomes show the exact opposite of the goals that sold the initiative to voters. We now see clearly that marijuana is increasingly hurting our youth, black market sales have not disappeared, the amount of crime due to marijuana has actually gone up, and Washington has become a net exporter of cannabis to other states.” (Director Dave Rodrigues of NW HIDTA)

      The Washington State Marijuana Impact Report was prepared by the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NW HIDTA) a Seattle-based office administered by the National Office of Drug Control Policy. Besides law enforcement, NW HIDTA provides assistance to the state’s substance abuse prevention community, drug courts, tribes and other organizations in areas that are known for the movement of drugs and other illicit substances.

      Year 2012

      • Washington state passed a new, voter-approved marijuana law effective December 6, 2012. This was the most permissive law in the nation regarding recreational use of marijuana. Following were some of the terms of this law:
        • Growing or selling any amount of marijuana is still a crime as of this date. Marijuana can only be purchased under a doctor’s recommendation for a medical problem.
        • Under age 21, you cannot legally possess marijuana.
        • Over age 21, you must follow federal legal restrictions on drugs. Marijuana remains illegal under Federal law. State law does not override federal law. The limit is 1 ounce per person; then, there are numerous other restrictions for more than 1 ounce.
        • Marijuana cannot be smoked or consumed in a public place.
        • Driving with a lit marijuana cigarette is a civil infraction, even if you are not impaired. This will be determined by a blood test at a local medical facility. (“Marijuana law takes effect at midnight,” The Spokesman-Review, December 5, 2012)

      Year 2013

      • As states legalize Marijuana, it is pushed more and more into the mainstream. Some 111 million people in the U.S. have tried marijuana at least once; more than 31 million have used it in 2013 alone; and 19 million admit to using marijuana on a regular basis.

        Judge Harry Edwards, writing for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said the judges did not dispute that “marijuana could have some medical benefits.” Instead, he said they were not willing to overrule the DEA because they had not seen large “well-controlled studies” that proved the medical value of marijuana.” (“U.S. Appeals Court refuses to reclassify marijuana,” by David G. Savage, McClatchy-Tribune, January 22, 2013)

      Year 2014

      • Legalizing marijuana is the birth of the next tobacco industry. Like other drugs, the cost to society is much bigger than what any community is going to make in tax revenue. Some of the costs to society include
        • Treating marijuana addiction. 10% of those who try it become habitual users.
        • High school and college student use will rise quickly. Grades fall and athletes decline in health and their ability to continue in sports.
        • Creates greater promotion and access to the drug
        • Legitimizes the drug
        • Marijuana edibles attract young people by marketing a wholesome, healthy image. Many kids are simply not concerned about the effects of pot. (Bob Doyle, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, April 2014)

      Year 2015

      • The Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5052, signed by Governor Jay Inslee, which states that minors under age 21 can be charged with a felony for marijuana possession, a crime which could net them up to 5 years in prison. (“Three teens facing marijuana felonies,” Lewiston, WA, The Spokesman-Review, September 19, 2015)

        Children as young as 11 years old are becoming addicted to marijuana. (Spokane Valley Police Dept. Chief Rick VanLeuven, GVSN meeting, November 2015)

      Year 2016

      • A new AAA study reports a disconnect between science and the law about marijuana and driving. The study says it is not possible to pinpoint a blood level for THC that proves a driver is impaired. Six states, (Including Washington, allow drivers to have some THC in their blood. six more states have introduced similar legislation. Another AAA report shows a rise in fatal crashes involving drivers who have smoke marijuana. (“Legal limits for driving on Pot not backed by science,” The Chicago Tribune, CBS This Morning, May 10, 2016)

      • Washington was the nation’s 6th largest outdoor producer of marijuana, and the second top indoor-producing state in 2006. We produced a $1 billion-a-year crop that was second in value only to the state’s famed apple harvest. Marijuana has become the biggest cash crop in the U.S., bringing in more annually than corn and wheat combined.
      • “Legal Marijuana is the Fastest-growing Industry in the U.S.” (2015) Report by Matt Ferner, Huffington Post, January 26, 2015.
      • 1 of 5 10th graders in Washington state use marijuana. (Washington Lights Up,” CBS Morning News, July 8, 2014)

    • Children as young as 11 years old are becoming addicted to marijuana. (Spokane Valley Police Dept. Chief Rick VanLeuven, GVSN meeting, November 2015)
    • Learn About Marijuana – science-based information for the public. Information for Parents to prevent underage use, Teens, Espanol, Research, Marijuana fact sheets, Reproduction and Marijuana, Adult consumers, Recovery help, Driving under the influence. (University of Washington’s ADAI (Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute)

    Legalizing marijuana is a social experiment, and like most experiments, it will take time to understand all of its consequences. As if cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and an opiate epidemic were not harmful enough to society, we now see society pushing legalization of recreational marijuana. Encourage law enforcement and schools to keep stats on marijuana-related crimes and incidents. (see Abby Goodnough, “Opioid Tide from Coast to Coast,” New York Times, Jan. 8, 2017)

    Encourage politicians to act responsibly. Political decisions are racing ahead of science and research, ignoring many red flags. In one study of 3,000 patients, in the one hour following the smoking of marijuana, there was a 5 times increased risk of heart attack. Marijuana causes an abnormal heart rhythms, increase in the heart rate and BP rate, potential for blood clots and strokes, and damage to blood vessels. Source: Journal of the American Heart Assn, Dr. Tara Marula

    Learn about the 2016 analysis of the Marijuana Legalization in Washington state, including its impact on adults, youth, business, crime and other states.

    The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

    Sun., Oct. 20, 2019

    Looking into the effects of legalized marijuana, Washington State University researchers discovered some surprising things.

    They turned up unintended consequences, found gaps in the data and came up with suggestions for law enforcement agencies dealing with a possible sea change in drug use.

    They couldn’t definitively settle the debate on whether legalizing marijuana has led to more crime or less crime. But in talking to law enforcement officers, researchers were told legalizing marijuana was affecting their work in ways no one expected, including their interactions with K-9s and informants.

    Some departments had to get new drug-detection canines because the dogs they had were trained to sniff out marijuana, said David Makin, of the WSU Criminal Justice Department and one of the principal investigators of the research. Some of the retired dogs got new jobs with school security officers.

    Some drug units also complained about a loss of a key avenue to acquire an important investigatory tool: confidential informants.

    “They said, ‘Marijuana was how we got CIs,’ ” Makin said during a presentation last week of the research to law enforcement groups in Olympia.

    Someone facing a marijuana charge could be convinced to become a confidential informant and provide information leading to arrests higher up the illegal drug supply chain.

    With a grant from the National Institute of Justice, WSU researchers set out to determine how law enforcement was handling crime before and after marijuana was legalized, and how that change in the law affected crime. It wasn’t an easy task.

    “You can’t get the data you want, all of the time,” said Dale Willits, of the Department of Criminal Justice and another principal investigator. “This is not a true experiment. It’s a social experiment, not a lab experiment.”

    They compared the rates of serious crime in Washington and Colorado, which also legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, to rates in 21 other states that haven’t legalized either recreational or medicinal marijuana.

    The data available points to an increase in serious crime in Colorado, which was similar to increases in the 21-state control group. Serious crime went up in Washington, but a little less than in the control states.

    “There was no substantial effect of legalization on crime rates,” Willits said. “That doesn’t mean legalization had no effect.”

    But if crime rates are increasing in states with and without legalized marijuana, other factors are at work.

    When the results of their multiyear study were first announced, some members of law enforcement disagreed with the conclusion that the data doesn’t show a conclusive link between legalization and serious crime rates.

    Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he’s heard from many people about a change in the quality of life when recreational marijuana stores open. “It’s one thing to look at pure statistics and numbers, it’s another thing to come down and talk to people about life on the street.”

    The research team did talk to some 150 law enforcement officers about their experiences before and after legalization, and worked out ways to analyze the data from those interviews, Makin said. There are concerns about crime, particularly as it relates to traffic safety and underage consumption.

    Cannabis-related impaired driving and crashes have increased in many jurisdictions, he said. But the data has some problems, because cases that may involve both marijuana and alcohol are often just listed as alcohol-related because that’s a much easier conviction to obtain, he said.

    The blood alcohol content standard of 0.08% is well established and easy to measure with a Breathalyzer. There’s no readily available and affordable testing equipment for the impairment standard for marijuana, set by law at 5 nanograms of the active ingredient THC in a milliliter of blood. And that standard is debatable because long-term chronic users might not be impaired at the 5 nanogram level and occasional users might be impaired at less than that.

    “The 5 nanogram limit is not going to pass a legal challenge,” Willits predicted.

    The researchers also did a pair of case studies in cities in an effort to determine whether police activity had changed as a result of legalized marijuana.

    They compared calls for service to the police departments in Pullman, and across the border in Moscow, Idaho, where marijuana remains illegal. Those calls, for reports of domestic disputes, noise complaints or “welfare checks” were up in Pullman, but down in Moscow.

    In Seattle, they compared calls for service and officer contacts involving marijuana in the months before and after recreational marijuana retail sales began. Officer contacts increased by about 354 per month, but there was no impact on calls for service.

    WSU researchers have applied for more grants to continue studying the effects of legalized marijuana. They would like to track marijuana usage rates, estimate the effects on illegal or “black market” sales and do more work on traffic safety. They’d like a broader study of whether or not law enforcement across the state is getting more complaint calls related to marijuana. They’d also like to collect body camera footage and analyze it to help departments learn the best ways to deal with traffic stops.

    “We’d like to have other states come to Washington to learn,” Makin said.

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    A Washington State University study on the effects of legalizing marijuana turned up unintended consequences, found gaps in the data and came up with suggestions for law enforcement agencies.