The Great Colorado Weed Experiment

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For seven months Coloradans have been lawfully smoking joints and inhaling cannabis vapors, chewing marijuana-laced candies and chocolates, drinking, cooking and lotioning with products infused with cannabis oil.

>Cannabis sales from January through May brought the state about 3.6 million in revenue from taxes, licenses and fees. That is not a huge amount in a 4 billion budget, but it’s a lot more than zero, and it’s money that was not pocketed by the black market.

Marijuana prosecutions are down across the state — The Denver Post found a 77 percent drop from the year before.

Cannabis storefronts are a plenty, but not obtrusive. Marijuana growers use unmarked warehouses on the city’s industrial edges.

The people of Colorado voted and amended the State Constitution in 2012 to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Amendment 64 will provide a flood of tax revenue for education, drug abuse prevention and research — with as much as 0 million for school construction every year, and 0 million for studying marijuana’s therapeutic and medical benefits.

The state government began the year by, swiftly erecting a system to regulate the new business and to enforce the laws that strictly limit where you can use cannabis, who can buy it and how products are made, marketed and sold. A digital inventory system tracks every plant “from seed to sale.” The law forbids public consumption and selling to those under 21.

To help regulate all illegal activity the state has expanded to 300 new law-enforcement officers.

Thanks to high-potency oils, a single chocolate bar or bottle of soda can contain enough THC to get several people high.

A handful of emergency-room visits by children sickened by edibles prompted the state in May to tighten the labeling laws, requiring products to be clearly marked as marijuana. But how to label single pieces of candy or keep tempting sweets away from children are lingering questions.

Lessons Beyond the Rockies
>“The Colorado model of medicalization and legalization is a model that is designed around continuous input and continuous adjustments,” said Christian Sederberg, a lawyer at a Denver firm dedicated to marijuana law and advocacy. Other states will be keeping a close eye on those adjustments.

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing some form of medical marijuana. Alaska and Oregon will put full legalization before the voters this fall. California may be next.

>Uruguay, meanwhile, recently became the first country to regulate marijuana growing and selling nationwide through a system in which the price is state-controlled and everyone involved — sellers, distributors, buyers — must be a citizen and licensed by the government. The goal is to end the narco-traffickers’ monopoly and drug violence. The success of this approach, and applicability to the United States, has yet to be shown.

So Far, So Good
Beyond the challenges of edible cannabis and parental anxiety, the problems facing Colorado are mostly prosaic and fixable.


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“The Great Colorado Weed Experiment”