Colorado: Child Welfare Cases Increase After Pot Legalization, But Is There a Connection?

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Ever since Colorado launched its recreational marijuana market three years ago, there has been an increase in child protection cases related to the use of drugs, according to a report from the Denver Post.

However, it remains uncertain just how many of these complaints were brought on by marijuana as opposed to other substances.

While the total number of child welfare cases has been on the decline throughout the Centennial State over the past few years, some of the latest statistics reveal a two percent increase since 2013 in situations where a parent or guardian was put under investigation due to the use of drugs.

But the report does not pinpoint marijuana as the culprit, only that drug-related child welfare cases have increased from 1,513 to 1,720 since weed was made available through legal means.

There is evidence to suggest that this increase in drug welfare cases has less to do with marijuana legalization and more with the rampant use of opioid medications and even cocaine.

In fact, a new federal report, which shows that the use of cocaine is increasing all over the nation, found that Colorado is one of the leading states with a taste for speed. Furthermore, the recreational use of prescription painkillers, which is now the leading cause of drug addiction and overdose deaths, has continued to spiral out of control for the past decade—putting tens of thousands of people every year in an early grave.

Interestingly, Colorado lawmakers have suggested that county child welfare departments dip into the tax revenue generated from the sale of legal weed in order to help them get to the bottom of the problem. Only, these legislative forces seem to be convinced that it is, in fact, legal marijuana that has contributed to the spread of child neglect cases throughout the state.

But as the Post pointed out in its article, very little can be known about the impact of legal marijuana on child abuse and neglect cases until the state formulates a better system for logging data pertaining to this issue. As it stands, the state’s welfare system does not track specific drugs when documenting cases. It only indicates whether substance abuse was a contributing factor.

Nevertheless, child welfare workers say legal marijuana has promoted a heavier workload.

In 2015, Colorado launched a new child abuse hotline, which has led to as many as 17,000 calls per month from people claiming a child is being abused or neglected at the hands of a marijuana user. However, there is no way of knowing if is was legal marijuana that contributed to the high volume of calls or whether these reports were simply made easier with the new hotline.

Welfare workers say that while marijuana has always been a part of the dynamic, a person’s use of the herb does not necessarily mean trouble. Although complaints surrounding marijuana are cause for an investigation, the state does not take action based on this factor alone—not unless a caseworker can prove that kids are not being fed or generally cared for as a result.

Although legal marijuana may be causing family services to conduct some additional leg work, Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, recently told lawmakers that the state is seeing more problems stemming from the use of heroin, methamphetamine and prescription drugs than marijuana.

The department has since rejected the use of pot taxes to make a case against legal weed.

The Colorado Department of Human Services will reportedly begin tracking the substances found in relation to child welfare cases in July of 2017.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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