Year of Publication



Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Sarah Wackerbarth, PhD

Committee Member

Hefei Wen, PhD

Committee Member

Richard Ingram, DrPH


This report is a policy analysis on the impacts of Colorado’s Amendment 64. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S, and a Schedule 1 Drug under the federal government. Despite this, twenty-nine states and territories in the U.S. have legalized it for medicinal purposes; (Hanson NCSL, 2017) four of which legalized it for recreational purposes. (Hall & Lynskey, 2016) Medical Marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2009; however, Amendment 64 was passed in 2012 which legalized the possession, retail sale, and purchase of marijuana to Colorado state residents 21 and over. Commercialization in retail stores began January 1, 2014. (Blumenauer & Polis, 2014)

Recreational marijuana legalization has remained a controversial topic. Proponents argue that it would improve public health, benefit economy, and reduce crime and criminal justice expenditure. Opponents argue that it would harm public health, increase crime, and promote marijuana and other drug use. (Dills, Goffard, & Miron, 2016) Colorado was the first to legalize recreational marijuana use, and this study assesses the impacts of Amendment 64 on marijuana use, risk perception, public health, crime, and economy.

The analysis reveals that Amendment 64 did not significantly impact marijuana use, risk perception, or crime from prior to legalization. Legalization did lead to an increase in health care visits, hospital admissions, poison center calls, and marijuana related traffic fatalities and DUI’s. However, Colorado modified policies to alleviate these adverse public health impacts. (Ghosh, et al., 2017) Impacts on the economy included increased jobs and state tax revenue. (Reed, 2016)

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