In preparation for April 1, the opening of the adult-use cannabis market in New Mexico, Corraleños can look to Colorado to have an idea of what to expect.

According to Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout, currently the Corrales Hemporium shop, located in the commercial district, has “expressed interest in becoming a dispensary.” 

Stout told the Comment that a “required site development plan application will need to be submitted and then be heard before the Planning and Zoning Commission.” This application is due 40 days before the commission will hear the request, and meetings are always the third Wednesday of the month.

 Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use, in 2012, giving researchers close to eight years of data to study the ramifications on the state’s healthcare system, the criminal justice system, and the environment before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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Every other year, the Colorado Department of Public Safety is required to release a report entitled “Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,” detailing the various consequences recreational-use cannabis has had on the state’s healthcare and justice systems.

The most recent report, from 2021 shows that cannabis use among residents and visitors to Colorado has steadily risen since legalization. Among adults, 19 percent reported using marijuana in the last 30 days in 2019, compared to 13.5 percent in 2013.

Marijuana-related hospitalizations, which stood at 2,446 per 100,000 total hospitalizations in 2013, rose to 3,515 per 100,000 in 2019.

The report mentions the number of phone calls to Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center related to marijuana exposure also increased. 127 phone calls were made in 2013, and 276 were made in 2019. Most notably, the most significant rise was exposure for children ages five and younger, from 15 calls in 2012 to 103 in 2019.

Mental healthcare has also been impacted by legalization. Among adults seeking treatment for substance abuse, the percentage of those claiming marijuana as their primary substance of use, rose slightly from 5.6 percent in 2013 to 6.6 percent in 2019. Among those admitted that were under the age of 18, however, a more dramatic rise was seen, from 67.9 percent in 2013 to 73 percent in 2019.

The number of drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana also increased, from 47 in 2013 to 120 in 2019.

Concerning the environment, legalization has brought another set of difficulties to Colorado.

Indoor growing warehouses, the enormous likes of which Corraleños do not really need to fear, are now responsible for 1.3 percent of Colorado greenhouse gasses, according to a paper published in Nature Sustainability. Another article, entitled “Cannabis and the Environment, What Science Tells Us and What We Still Need to Know”  published in the scholarly journal, Environmental Science and Technology Letters, emissions from indoor cultivated cannabis in Colorado could contribute to ozone formation and particulate matter pollution. Unfortunately, indoor-grown cannabis is widely considered to be much more marketable than outdoor-grown.

However, even outdoor-grown cannabis poses its own set of environmental concerns, from water use to disposal of waste water-runoff. Cannabis plants need special pesticides, since they are consumed sometimes at elevated temperatures. Needed pesticides take a toll on fragile ecosystems.

Even when speaking only of use and not cultivation, the environment is impacted by cannabis.  In the same article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, the authors write, “A significant body of literature documenting the effects of pollution from the consumption of illegal drugs, including cannabis, on water quality in urban areas.” They go on to mention risks for communities and ecosystems downstream of such areas.

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