Colorado has a drug problem, but only if weed counts

Colorado has a drug problem, but only if weed counts

VicesAugust 29, 2017 By Reilly Capps

Did the state that's leading the world in legalizing weed bring on its own drug crisis?

That's what a bundle of news reports suggest:

"Colorado among states with biggest drug abuse problems," says Denver's Channel 7.

"Colorado Has One of USA's Worst Drug Problems, Study Says," claims Denver's Westword magazine.

This seems to support predictions that, if states legalize weed, they'll bring a whole lot of drug problems along with it.

At first glance, the evidence looks bad. The data come from a pretty thorough report titled Drug Use by State: 2017's Problem Areas, created by WalletHub — a business website that's pretty good at crunching data. It uses 15 different metrics from a half dozen government agencies.

Colorado ranks first in "highest percentage of adult drug users" and "highest percentage of teen drug users," which results in Colorado being the second most drug-using state in the nation. Only Vermont is more druggie.

But there's a catch.

Colorado is the second most drug-using state only if you count marijuana as a drug.

That's what the study did. It lumps marijuana in with heroin and cocaine.

If weed isn't used as a drug, Colorado is much more average.

Is weed a drug? Sure. But weed isn't heroin. 

Looking at the really bad statistics, Colorado isn't in the top five in drug arrests per capita, or overdose deaths per capita, or even opioid prescriptions per capita. Those titles are held exclusively by states that haven't legalized weed: South Dakota, West Virginia, and Alabama, respectively. 

And so it doesn't mean that legalizing one drug leads to abuse of all drugs. 

The word "drug" means something that affects your body. And pot certainly does that. But so does coffee, chocolate, cigarettes, and of course alcohol (of which the report conveniently left out).

But marijuana isn't a bad drug, it's a good drug, which fights everything from nausea to helping pain.

Colorado — the first state in the world to legalize pot — does not have a drug problem; Colorado has a drug solution.

And yeah, Vermont? They got the same drug solution, too.