The study uses Colorado, one of the first legal weed states, as its lone test case. The state netted $247,368,473 in cannabis sales-tax revenue in 2017, according to official figures, part of a revenue stream that’s gone to pave streets, fund education, and—in at least one instance—build a new police station. But according to the Centennial Institute report, legalization actually cost the state four-and-a-half times that—more than $1 billion—thanks chiefly to $431,027,862 in lost productivity and $469,488,127 in health costs.
To reach those figures, researchers pulled data from official sources, like the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and then did some math. Among other novel moves, to figure cannabis’ cost to productivity, an estimated number of marijuana-related expulsions and dropouts—itself dubious, reliant on multiplying total dropouts by a portion “likely” attributable to pot—was multiplied by $334,716.12, the estimated “cost of not having a high-school diploma.” (Pot users who went back to school didn’t seem to figure.)
To posit health costs, the study claimed more than 30,000 weed-related hospital admissions per year in Colorado—a figure based on a separate, peer-reviewed report, which reached a decidedly less panicked conclusion—and also cited addiction treatment, underweight babies, and other maladies as adding to a ghastly tab.
……..But dubious bits of research may be anti-drug warriors’ best lifeline in an era of fake news and questionable data points.
“These guys are the flat-earth crew,” said Michael Collins, a Washington DC-based lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the country’s main legalization advocacy groups. “They’re arguing about something that’s already been decided.”