Editor's Note: This article was originally published in The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Co.), a sister publication of the Washington Examiner.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of Colorado's decision to sanction the world's first anything-goes commercial pot trade.
Five years later, we remain an embarrassing cautionary tale.
Visitors to Colorado remark about a new agricultural smell, the wafting odor of pot as they drive near warehouse grow operations along Denver freeways. Residential neighborhoods throughout Colorado Springs reek of marijuana, as producers fill rental homes with plants.
Five years of retail pot coincide with five years of a homelessness growth rate that ranks among the highest rates in the country. Directors of homeless shelters, and people who live on the streets, tell us homeless substance abusers migrate here for easy access to pot.
Five years of Big Marijuana ushered in a doubling in the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana, based on research by the pro-legalization Denver Post.
Five years of commercial pot have been five years of more marijuana in schools than teachers and administrators ever feared.
"An investigation by Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network shows drug violations reported by Colorado's K-12 schools have increased 45 percent in the past four years, even as the combined number of all other violations has fallen," explains an expose on escalating pot use in schools by Rocky Mountain PBS in late 2016.
The investigation found an increase in high school drug violations of 71 percent since legalization. School suspensions for drugs increased 45 percent.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found Colorado ranks first in the country for marijuana use among teens, scoring well above the national average.
The only good news to celebrate on this anniversary is the dawn of another organization to push back against Big Marijuana's threat to kids, teens, and young adults.
The Marijuana Accountability Coalition formed Monday in Denver and will establish satellites throughout the state. It resulted from discussions among recovery professionals, parents, physicians and others concerned with the long-term effects of a commercial industry profiteering off of substance abuse.
"It's one thing to decriminalize marijuana, it's an entirely different thing to legalize an industry that has commercialized a drug that is devastating our kids and devastating whole communities," said coalition founder Justin Luke Riley. "Coloradans need to know, other states need to know, that Colorado is suffering from massive normalization and commercialization of this drug which has resulted in Colorado being the number one state for youth drug use in the country. Kids are being expelled at higher rates, and more road deaths tied to pot have resulted since legalization."
Commercial pot's five-year anniversary is an odious occasion for those who want safer streets, healthier kids, and less suffering associated with substance abuse. Experts say the worst effects of widespread pot use will culminate over decades. If so, we can only imagine the somber nature of Big Marijuana's 25th birthday.
Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.