- Paul Kuhn is a retired investment advisor and a longtime advocate of marijuana law reform.
As a newcomer to my native Tennessee from Colorado, Thomas M. Antkow paints a gloomy picture of his former state, all because it legalized pot. But his claim that marijuana wrecked Colorado does not stand up to scrutiny.
I’m sorry to have to say, but the Centennial State beats our beloved Volunteer State in almost every way except taxes.
Look at economic growth, GDP, over the past three years. Tennessee is a respectable 20th in the nation; Colorado is fourth. In terms of the general business environment, US News & World Report Tennessee ranks 23rd in the country. Pretty good. Colorado is fourth again. How about violent crime? Tennessee is unfortunately in third place while Colorado is 21st.
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Colorado has had great success
Colorado is number 10 of the healthiest states, Tennessee is number 45. And to top it off: Last year again, more people moved from Tennessee to Colorado than from Colorado to Tennessee.
When the legalization of marijuana was on the vote in Colorado in 2012, then Governor John Hickenlooper warned of the impending demise. Now the governor says: “Nobody wants to go back to the old system.” I don’t think he knows Antkov.
Young people and cannabis are a big concern for everyone, including Antkow. Here’s some good news: The 2019 Colorado Healthy Child Survey found that “There was no significant change in marijuana use among young people between 2013 and 2019.” Federal health surveys agree. Across the country, teenage pot consumption has been on a downward trend for two decades.
One population group from Colorado saw a sharp increase in cannabis use: the rate of people over 65 who smoke cannabis has tripled since 2013. Apparently, many elderly Coloradans prefer marijuana to medicinal products to relieve their pain and discomfort.
What about the carnage on the highways quoted by Antkov? A study in the American Journal of Public Health three years after legalization went into effect found that “… road death rates for … Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states (Tennessee was included in this study) without recreational marijuana legalization.”
But if Antkow is given the right, Tennessee can be clearly differentiated from Colorado by this measure: If, like my late wife in the Volunteer State, you are battling pain or disease and marijuana is the only thing that helps, you are out of luck.
You could end up behind bars because, unlike Colorado, Tennessee is imprisoning people to stop marijuana sales instead of regulating and taxing marijuana sales to pull people out of a criminal market with no age or quality controls.
I can’t figure out how this directive will help Tennessee, even though law enforcement is making millions of dollars in asset forfeiture (as Antkov advises, it’s all about money) and politicians enjoy being “tough on drugs.”
If politicians got smarter about drugs, like the 80% of their voters who want medicinal cannabis, fewer families in Tennessee would move to Colorado for their drugs.
Even Antkov believes legal cannabis is coming to Tennessee. He offers some good ideas and some bad ideas for putting this law in the books. Let’s learn from Colorado and get there.
Paul Kuhn is a retired investment advisor and a longtime advocate of marijuana law reform.