The state can’t protect us from ourselves


While the Colorado legislature struggles with ways to make marijuana look different from other food products, another tragic death has been blamed on edibles by the family of an Oklahoma man who shot himself March 21 while on a skiing vacation in Keystone. 

Luke Goodman, 23, apparently (toxicology tests haven’t been completed) ate five single doses of a cannabis cookie or some gummy bears and several hours later took his life with a pistol he had brought to Colorado.

The rush to judgment connecting the death with edibles began immediately. Some headlines mentioned the pot but not the pistol. It’s as if anything bad happens and cannabis is in any way involved, the conclusion is that it was the marijuana’s fault. That’s what Goodman’s parents insisted during a TV interview.

“It was 100 percent the drugs,” his mother said. 

More than three-quarters of Colorado gun deaths are suicides. Most are males. Most are white. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment calls suicide “a complex public health issue.” So the fact that he was carrying a weapon has something to do with this young man’s death, right? His mother said Luke showed no signs of depression nor had ever expressed suicidal thoughts. Except for the family’s insistence he was normal and happy until he ate pot edibles, we don’t know anything about Goodman or why he was on a skiing vacation packing a loaded handgun in a public hotel.

This is the third high-profile death “linked” to edible usage and violence since legalization began. In March of 2014, visiting college student Levy Thamba jumped or fell from the balcony of a Denver hotel sometime after consuming a marijuana cookie. And Richard Kirk of Denver, who was found to have for the murder of his wife with a hand- THC in his system, will stand trial soon gun after eating cannabis candy last April.

But while those incidents are certainly horrific, let’s not forget that more than 5 million doses of edibles were bought and consumed legally in 2014. cy rooms and some children sickened There have been some visits to emergen- after hitting their parent’s or neighbor’s stash. But 5 million people, locals and tourists alike, also bought and used the same products without hassle or drama. That these three incidents were “caused” by marijuana has hardly been proven. 

I admire our legislature for its efforts to get a better handle on edibles. But how much more can it do? This case shows once again that there will be a tiny minority who, for whatever reasons, aren’t going to read labels, pay attention to what the bud tender is saying or just doesn’t give a good goddamn and is going to push the limits.

So the suggestion that this is somehow the fault of the cannabis industry or the state’s regulations or legalization just doesn’t wash. The cannabis was sold to an adult, and the packaging explicitly said how much each dosage was and that the effects might be delayed.

Nobody wants things like this to happen. But honestly, what more could the state or the industry or anyone else have done to stop this?

Colorado retail cannabis sales continue to rise. State retail outlets sold $39.2 million worth of cannabis in February, the most in any month since legalization began in January 2014. That’s up from January sales of $36.4 million.

In terms of taxes, last year $10,290,536 was raised for school construction projects, and in both January and February of this year more than $2 million has been moved to the school fund. A common misperception is that the money is going to school district operating expenses. It’s not. Funded by the 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana, the money does contribute to the Building Excellent Schools Today program in the form of grants for school building repairs, construction and security updates. It provides money for projects as diverse as repairing a roof or making fire or safety code improvements as well as constructing new school buildings. The BEST program is also funded by money from the state land trust and leftover Powerball profits.

At least some of the latest sales growth is because the city of Aurora, tired of watching its citizens drive into Denver to buy cannabis, now has nine stores open, with more on the way. I think this is also indicative that more people are feeling comfortable about going into retail shops. Some expected legalization to immediately end the black market. But let’s face it, an illegal trade that developed and actually flourished over a half century isn’t going to be wiped out by 15 months of legal marijuana sales in Colorado. Given time, education, acceptance and more states legalizing, that market should continue to diminish.

The U.S. Border Patrol recently announced that it was seizing less and less marijuana coming into the country from Mexico, another consequence of legalization. In 2011 it confiscated 2.5 million pounds of pot; in 2014 that number went down to 1.9 million pounds. And Mexican authorities saw a 32 percent decline in tons of marijuana apprehended.

I saw a news story last month about one of those seizures in California that included a photo of a small truck whose back door was open, exposing 20 or 30 smuggled “bricks.” I laughed out loud. Anybody trying to smuggle that shit to Colorado is crazy — that’s ditch weed, dudes.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.


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