Marijuana on display at Colorado pot shop High Country Healing. (Kathryn Scott Osler, Denver Post file)

Colorado legalization report by anti-pot group suggests bad side effects

Marijuana reform group's spokesman calls source political

A new report from an organization formed to disrupt drug trafficking lists a litany of negative side effects from legalized marijuana use in Colorado.

“Did you know,” it asks, that “in 2014, when retail marijuana businesses began operating, that in only a year:

“Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 32 percent. Almost 20 percent of all traffic deaths were marijuana related compared to only 10 percent less than five years ago. Marijuana-related emergency department visits increased 29 percent. Marijuana-related hospitalizations increased 38 percent.”

The report, released Tuesday by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, also pointed to increased seizures of Colorado marijuana in other states and high teenage use as links to legalization.

Data within the report leave room for interpretation about its conclusions. The 32 percent increase in “marijuana-related” traffic deaths, for example, was in raw numbers an increase from 71 to 94 deaths after a decrease the year before, and total traffic deaths have declined in Colorado since 2008.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, also disputed the notion that legalization has driven up teen use.

He said a broad Colorado Healthy Kids Survey actually found that marijuana use rate among Colorado high school students appears to have decreased from 2009 to 2013.

Tvert also questioned why Tom Gorman, the director of the group issuing the report and a leading opponent of legalization in Colorado, is spending federal money to continue that campaign.

“Why is this agency focused on this political activity?” he asked.

Gorman said part of its mission to disrupt major drug-trafficking organizations is reporting trends in a state that legalized a drug that remains illegal federally.

“The data is not mine,” he said, and is presented to further public knowledge. “We don’t make editorial statements.”

David Olinger: 303-954-1498, dolinger@denverpost.com or twitter.com/dolingerdp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com