Post-legalization, the state's pre-existing, highly-regulated marijuana industry is set to go into overdrive
(Credit: Reuters/Cliff DesPeaux)
Colorado and Washington are currently awaiting the federal response to their citizens’ votes this week to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Meanwhile, Colorado’s pre-existing, highly-regulated business structure for growing and selling (previously just medical) pot is set to go into overdrive. The reassuring fact that strict oversight of medical marijuana was already in place played a big role in the eventual success of Amendment 64; under current regulations, every step in the growing process is rigorously overseen and constantly filmed by video cameras monitored by the state’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. No video blind spots are allowed, and truck shipments must detail the total weight of all marijuana products, in addition to the times of their arrival and departure. On top of that, every marijuana worker must be licensed. “The thing that Colorado really has going for it is that there is already a high level of comfort and familiarity with the state licensing, taxing and regulating the above-ground distribution of marijuana,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “People had become accustomed to the notion that this can be a source of tax revenue, and that police can play a role in insuring effective regulation rather than just arresting anyone they could.”
Revenue and profit considerations also played a major role in the amendment passing. Amendment 64 is predicted to siphon considerable profits away from drug cartels and generate up to $60 million annually in combined tax revenues and savings from reduced law enforcement costs (according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy). There will also be a 15% excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales, with the first $40 million in revenues every year earmarked for the construction of public schools. And despite protests from DEA administrators, the Colorado’s Attorney General won’t go after the hundreds of dispensaries in the state—only those that are within 1,000 yards of a school will be targeted. Colorado’s law allow residents over the age of 21 to possess and use pot, as well as personally cultivating up to six plants.