So far, so good. That’s the general consensus from cannabis activists on Colorado’s pioneering venture into legal recreational sales, but a number of challenges loom for medical marijuana patients and the burgeoning retail industry.
With all eyes on this national litmus test for legal adult access that began in January, several areas of concern including the recreational market’s effect on medical users and quality control issues have drawn the attention of advocacy bulwarks.
“It would appear that overall the legalization of retail cannabis for the general public has been a success in almost every measurable way,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It seems like an extremely successful launch and it really is helping other states, and for that matter countries, understand how they too can end cannabis prohibition and begin a tax-and-control policy.”
Morgan Fox of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project agreed, adding “Colorado is proving that marijuana can be regulated like any other legal substance, and that doing so is far better than punishing adults for using a substance safer than alcohol and allowing the market to be controlled by criminals.”
The medical marijuana community is especially watching Colorado closely to gauge possible negatives for patients in a two-tiered distribution system.
“What makes an adult-use law either beneficial, neutral or detrimental to patients has yet to really become crystal clear,” said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access.
He noted three main areas of concern for medical users – “quality, consistency and safety” – as new recreational markets impact overall cannabis production in a particular area.
Regarding quality, strains that are appealing to the recreational market may not suit patients partial to “strains that have a positive therapeutic effect” but lack the psychotropic high desired by recreational users, according to Hermes.
“There are also consistency issues,” he continued. “Patients want to make sure that if they find a strain that works for them, they can continue to obtain it on a regular basis.”
Hermes also surmised that recreational users may care less than medical patients “that a product is free of adulterants or contaminants,” leading to health and safety concerns.
With projections to the tune of $1 billion in revenue by the end of the year, optimism is a prevailing sentiment throughout the Colorado cannabis industry.
“I’m sure when other states see that it’s a consistent thing, maybe a year or two, they’re going to jump on the bandwagon,” said Sasha Saghbazarian from the Caregivers for Life dispensary in Denver. “Judging based on how many people drive from other states just to come to Colorado to get legal weed, soon they’ll realize ‘wow, we could do this in our state and keep the profit for ourselves.'”
Fox from the Marijuana Policy Project also noted the precedent being set right now in Colorado as the wave of U.S. states that enact legalization measures continues to gain momentum.
“Businesses, regulators and consumers are learning from this process and are already making huge improvements in the ways marijuana is processed, packaged, sold and consumed,” he said. “As other states reform their marijuana laws, they will be able to learn from what Colorado is going through now. This type of development and refinement just isn’t possible in the illicit market.”
Photo Credit: DocMonsterEyes
Author: Joe Taglieri