Colorado’s Marijuana Rollout ‘Largely Successful’ 
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Colorado’s Marijuana Rollout ‘Largely Successful’ 
Posted by CN Staff on August 01, 2014 at 07:17:34 PT
By Niraj Chokshi
Source: Washington Post
Colorado -- As it enters its eighth month, Colorado’s implementation of the first-in-the-nation experiment in legal, recreational marijuana has so far been a success, Brookings Institution fellow John Hudak concludes in a new report.The rollout of Colorado’s legal marijuana policy—which created a new industry virtually overnight—was a “largely successful” contrast to dysfunction at the federal level, Hudak writes in a more than 20-page report based on interviews with local officials, regulators, business owners and others.
“That was the most surprising, I think—how mature opponents were and how willing to work with the other side they were—in at least a national political environment where that’s unheard of,” he said.What The Report Is—And Is Not Hudak is quick to note what the report isn’t: it is not a judgment on whether the policy itself is a good one. A government can implement a bad policy well or a good one poorly, he notes. But, with all eyes on the state, Colorado did something no other had done before and it did it well. But to critics of the policy, that’s besides the point.“Do Colorado bureaucrats know how to account for the tax revenue? Great, I’m not as concerned about that,” says Kevin Sabet, a critic of the legalization enacted in Colorado and Washington, and whose group Smart Approaches to Marijuana advocates for a middle-ground approach between legalization and harsh criminalization. Sabet, a former senior adviser at the Obama White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, says what matters are the law’s effects.“I visited Colorado about five times since the implementation and what I’ve seen there when I talk to hospital officials, treatment officials, parents, what I’m hearing from them, is that legalization in theory sounded a lot better than what legalization in practice has become,” he said. One recent study found that in the years after Colorado legalized medical marijuana, there was an increase in the share of drivers in fatal accidents who tested positive for marijuana. Edibles, both Sabet and Hudak note, pose another concern given the ease with which children can mistakenly consume them and the inexperience many adult users have with their high potency.There’s not yet enough data to judge the impact of legalizing recreational marijuana one way or another, Hudak notes, but it’s clear the state has implemented the policy mostly successfully.The ‘Successful’ Rollout Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) leadership was critical, Hudak writes.One of his first actions—the creation of the Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64—was among the most crucial and successful. The 34-member committee was chaired by Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel, Jack Finlaw, and produced a nearly 200-page report within just three months of being formed. State employees also told Hudak that Hickenlooper set the tone on implementing the policy despite his own earlier opposition. It was his administration’s job to carry out the will of the people, he said, and it did so in a well-coordinated and adaptable way.“All told, what happened at the Department of Revenue and the new Marijuana Enforcement Division was a wholesale administrative reorganization—never an easy thing to achieve, especially in a political environment,” Hudak writes.Six actions, in particular, were key to the successful implementation of the law, he said:* Creation of the Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution, a system that tracks every plant grown for sale via barcode.* Vertical integration, at least initially, of cultivation, processing and manufacturing and sales. “This system initially limits the complexity of the market—in size, scope, and activities of participants—in ways that reduce the early regulatory challenges,” Hudak wrote.* Early barriers to entry, by mandating that a period of time when only existing medical marijuana businesses could sell the drug for recreational use.Purchase limits.* Video surveillance requirements.* Using revenue to fund oversight of the industry and using the extra funds to sustain other governmental functions.* Key groups across the state underwent sometimes-dramatic cultural changes necessary to the law’s implementation. Law enforcement officials, for example, are acculturating officers to legal marijuana. And the threat of federal intervention facilitated playing by the rules and communication between industry and regulators.The Problems The implementation has been mostly successful, but there are some issues that need work, Hudak writes. Edibles were a common concern in Hudak’s interviews. Serving sizes and naive users can easily facilitate overconsumption.In my own trip to a retail marijuana dispensary, I observed a couple interested in purchasing a marijuana brownie. The “budtender” explained in detail to the buyer that the brownie contained six servings and that proper consumption involved dividing the brownie or biting off a small chunk. The information was correct and clear, but who eats a sixth of a brownie or a quarter of a candy bar? Moreover, people who smoke, dab, or vape marijuana experience the effects quickly. However, edibles can take 30 to 60 minutes before the consumer feels a “high.” As a result, an individual—particularly one unfamiliar with marijuana edibles—may overconsume, believing the product is ineffective. Overconsumption can have negative consequences.The state has taken steps toward fixing the problem, but more needs to be done, he writes. The act of growing pot at home needs to be better regulated, too, he says. And some incentives need to be ironed out. Higher taxes on legal pot drive users toward the medical market, defeating part of the purpose of legalizing recreational use. And tourists are driven to edibles given that public smoking is banned and many hotels ban smoking, too. Colorado’s implementation isn’t perfect, but it’s been pretty good so far, Hudak concludes.Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Niraj Chokshi Published: August 1, 2014Copyright: 2014 Washington Post CompanyContact: letters Website: URL:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #5 posted by devohawk on August 01, 2014 at 20:54:59 PT
Colorado is doing something right
I traveled west to Colorado the weekend before last. It was my first experience at a cannabis shop and the place we went to opened up at 8:00 AM. The 'Budtender' explained everything about the edibles and I followed the advice: which Hudak would have trouble with so I don't value his opinion. An out of state adult 21 is limited to 7 grams of flowers per visit (but you could visit any amount of times you wanted in a day), however, can buy all the other products you want in any quantity. In-state adults 21 can get an ounce and the price difference is huge between shops. They are making the money on tourists and the locals I know are paying $150 or less an ounce of good flowers. Colorado is off to a great start. Supply and demand is lowing prices.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on August 01, 2014 at 20:30:36 PT
Good One Kaptinemo!
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on August 01, 2014 at 15:55:44 PT:
Sam Adams, I wouldn't be too worried
Economics being the impersonal force it is, uncaring (and unsparing) of any ideology as opposed to commerce, the prices will come will the taxes. Adam Smith's 'Invisible Hand' will see to that. Expect to see legislation along those lines appearing some time next year. No 'crystal ball' stuff, just logic...and an understanding of the baser aspects of governments.The point behind the efforts of CO's reformers - even if they were not wholly conscious of them - was a return of freedom to the individual, and a corresponding lessening of the power of The State over that individual.To accomplish that, the greed of The State for revenue was used, as in jiu-jitsu, against it. It has relinquished the stranglehold on individual cannabists in order to get its dirty, grubby hands on the revenue. And thus a measure of freedom has been returned to the individual, after a long, loooong time of the opposite happening.Like a beachhead in war, re-legalization will allow cannabists to push the The State back even further, forcing it to retreat even more from its former role as would-be 'fearful master' (as Washington put it) to once more being a 'useful servant'. if it wants to continue to benefit from steady revenue, it will back off.What we are experiencing now is best summed up by a quote of something Churchill said:"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."The people have taken back a measure of freedom stolen under false pretenses...and having had a taste of victory, a taste of true personal sovereignty instead of the bland, near-tasteless 'artificially flavored' version of 'freedom' we've known all our lives, they will want more. Hence my prediction about upcoming legislation...and the resulting, inevitable price adjustments.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on August 01, 2014 at 09:32:13 PT
no no no!
The 6 bullet points quoted by Hickenlooper & company are actually the awful harassing parts of the law that have already defeated it's main goal: eliminating the black market.  Legal herb in CO is running $400 per ounce, black market, $150-$200.Cutting up a brownie? I wonder if these folks ever go into a liquor store when someone buys a bottle of vodka, or a 40oz. bottle of malt liquor. Don't drink it all at once! Pour it into small shot glasses!  this is ridiculous. The bar-coding of plants is the most absurd part. Just a nuisance tax on cannabis consumers.The state legislation gave the dispensaries a head start over everyone else because they were paid off by the medical dispensaries. That's blatant protectionism, which never works.
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Comment #1 posted by gloovins on August 01, 2014 at 07:32:03 PT
"Higher taxes on legal pot drive users toward the medical market, defeating part of the purpose of legalizing recreational use."Well duhh, yes I do believe Colo & Wash have overtaxed this plant. They just got too greedy. I mean, there is no 15-25% tax on killer booze, cmon. Greedy idiots. Grow your own, then sell it....untaxed. ;)
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