Dueling Reports on Marijuana’s Narrative

With the start of the New Year, many actors in our political system like to sit back, reflect on the past year and then obfuscate the facts in favor of something more pleasing to entrenched interests. By claiming the narrative of the past, vested interests can set the narrative and the agenda of the coming year.

Earlier we gave you our take on 2014; and in like kind, leading marijuana proponents and opponents are releasing their takes as well.

According to The Denver Post, both the pro-marijuana Drug Policy Alliance and the anti-marijuana Smart Approaches to Marijuana have released reports on marijuana’s first year of legalization; and both reports have competing visions of reality.

The report released by the DPA is more or less a recap of statistics we have seen throughout the year. For example, deadly traffic fatalities in Colorado have declined by 3 percent for the first 11 months of 2014 (December stats are not yet available.)

Not to be left out, the SAM report glosses over the traffic fatalities statistic and instead moves to emphasize that there was an increase of marijuana related DUIs and traffic stops. While that may sound like a scary stat, it is less sensational than you think. As we have reported before, marijuana DUI is less clear cut than alcohol; and as of yet there is no definitive procedure for proving real-time marijuana intoxication.

According to the DPA report, violent crime in Colorado is down 2.2 percent, burglaries are down 9.5 percent, and overall property crime is down 8.9 percent. Unsurprisingly, marijuana arrests are down 84 percent from 2010, which is exactly what you’d expect with marijuana legalization.

While the Colorado crime statistics sound rosy to you, to the SAM report the figures seemed unsettling. According to the SAM report disorderly conduct in Denver is up 51 percent, public drunkenness up 53 percent and drug violations are up 12 percent.

The casual observer may note that there is probably a stronger correlation between the public drunkenness and disorderly statistics than there is to marijuana legalization, but the great thing about statistics is that you can interpret them any way you want.

As previously reported, 2015 is going to be a hotbed of legislative activity for the marijuana industry. When debate opens on the legislative floor, you are going to hear all sorts of “facts” and “statistics” floating around.

Whether you are an investor, entrepreneur or an interested individual, it is important to hold such facts in a broader context. There are two competing realities in the marijuana debate, and if you can’t properly read the facts then you have already lost.

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