Colorado: Crime down since pot legalised, should we follow?
CANNABIS advocates have renewed calls for the drug to be legalised after it was revealed crime is down and taxes are up since pot was legalised for recreational use in the US state of Colorado.
In the first full year since cannabis was legalised for recreational consumption, Colorado collected more than $60 million in tax from sales of pot and the number of homicides dropped by 24% in the capital Denver.
The number of burglaries fell by 9.5%, robberies were down by 3% and property crime dropped by 2%.
Mardigrass organiser and Nimbin Hemp Embassy secretary Kathleen Williamson toured Colorado's recreational cannabis industry last November.
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During her travels she said she spoke to dozens of people in shops, cafes, on public transport and nobody thought legalising cannabis for recreational use was a bad idea.
"There wasn't a hippy in sight, it was a very straight industry," she said.
Since the legalisation Colorado has issued 322 licences for recreational cannabis dispensaries where users can buy, but not smoke, pot.
Despite being legal, Ms Williamson said cannabis dispensaries were usually found in arcades, basements or up inside buildings, while others look like doctors surgeries.
"I guess once industries aren't legal and are part of the main stream they have a very mainstream look about them.
"They are not really identifiable from the outside, some of them have a little green cross out the front."
While it's legal to possess up to an ounce of cannabis in Colorado, Ms Williamson said it must be smoked in private.
This has spawned a new cannabis accommodation industry.
"There are dedicated accommodation providers who have places to stay where you can smoke."
Ms Williamson said based on what she saw in Colorado it was time for governments to seriously consider legalising cannabis for recreational use in Australia.
"If state governments are serious about raising money we have to change the way things are and regulating cannabis is a way of raising revenue from what is a health issue. It's time to get the police and the justice system out of what is a health or a social issue."