Health district report tallies tax revenue, impacts of pot

EVERETT — Legalizing recreational marijuana generated $26 million in sales in Snohomish County during the first year, according to a Snohomish Health District report.

A portion of the state tax on marijuana is sent back to local communities for enforcement of marijuana laws. During the financial year ending June 30, Arlington received $54,756; Bothell $86,721; Everett $68,322; Granite Falls $6,951; Lake Stevens $16,418; and Snohomish County $349,753.

The tally of marijuana tax revenues was one part of a recent report written by the Snohomish Health District and Snohomish County Human Services that examines the impacts of legal marijuana for people 21 and older. Washington voters approved the legalization initiative in November 2012 and it went into effect the following month. Recreational marijuana stores opened July 8, 2014.

A total of 41 retailers in Snohomish County have received state permission to sell marijuana. The report projects that number will grow to 66 as medical marijuana stores convert to retail stores.

The report also looks at the how legalization has affected youth and adults.

A 2014 youth survey, the most recent data available, found that a quarter of 10th graders reported they had tried marijuana at least once and 16 percent used it regularly.

Survey data from 2002 to 2014 found that youth use of marijuana was not increasing, said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the health district. “The fact youth have not been using it more I think is really encouraging,” he said.

The survey didn’t include information on how marijuana legalization has affected its use by young people. Goldbaum said he thought legalization would have more impact on use by adults.

“Frankly, even before legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use, youth had access,” he said. “There were a lot of kids reporting it was pretty easy to get marijuana on the streets.”

Goldbaum said it’s important for young people to realize their use of marijuana can affect brain development. “The science has been increasingly convincing that the human brain continues to develop even into their early 20s,” he said.

That means the brains of teenagers are vulnerable to the influences not only of marijuana, but also alcohol, nicotine and other drugs, Goldbaum said.

During the 2014-15 school year, school districts in Snohomish County suspended 433 students 456 times for marijuana-related offenses, the report found.

About half of adults surveyed in Snohomish County in 2014 said they had tried marijuana.

Though the state law legalizing marijuana sets a blood-level concentration for impairment while driving, it’s not an accurate measure, the study says.

The height of intoxication does not occur with a peak of THC blood levels, the study found. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that creates its affect on the body.

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