Colorado is blazing the trail of legalization of cannabis, as the state already licenses over 500 medical marijuana dispensaries. Now the state has issued licenses on Friday that permit retailers to sell cannabis for recreational use. Not only has Colorado drawn medical users of marijuana, but it has also seen the birth of a new industry, the cannabis tourist market.
Most of the new licenses were issued to marijuana growers but roughly a dozen were issued to retail shops. The licenses were being issued in preparation for the legalization of recreational pot in Colorado on January 1st. In November of 2012 a general election seen Colorado residents expand the laws to allow production and sale of recreational use marijuana.
The new law sees dispensaries and growers alike hoping to cash in on the law change and increase the revenue of their businesses. Some enterprising and innovative companies have already started to create tours of their cannabis grow operations and retail shops. The tourists are from a culture of marijuana consumers that once had to travel all the way to the Netherlands to experience what can now be seen in a Colorado market.
Adam Raleigh of the Telluride Bud Co. says that the just the novelty of the recreational legalization of cannabis has started to bring people into the state from everywhere. Raleigh says that so far people from Utah, Arizona and Texas have visited just to be a part of the history that is being made in Colorado.
Raleigh’s business now fields up to a half-dozen emails and at least five to ten phone calls each day, from tourist requesting information about the law and asking for tips on how to plan their ski vacation to include cannabis.
The state of Washington is also joining in with Colorado to legalize recreational use of marijuana. So far only 19 states in the U.S. control and allow medical marijuana and some states have even allowed the medical use for the last 20 years. These cannabis markets are already very large but Washington and Colorado are expecting an increase of up to 64 percent in 2014. By adding the legalization of recreational use, next year’s market is likely to top $2.34 billion in revenue.
Shops in Colorado were issued a total of 348 retail licenses that will allow them to sell up to 28 grams of marijuana to anyone that is 21 years of age or older. Washington State has received a total of 3,746 applications for marijuana business licenses including 867 applications from retailers.
Attorney for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Rachel Gillette, says that the new laws will create jobs, increase tax revenue on a state and local level, increase the number of state visitors, and develop a new tourist market for the people of Colorado. Gillette also thinks that it will have a positive impact by driving out black market sales of cannabis.
Some experts are worried that the new market will drive the marijuana industry into a shortage. The head of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, Michael Elliot, thinks that the new influx of marijuana tourists may lead to pot shortages. Elliot says that it is tough to know whether the marijuana supply could possibly meet the new demand as it is tough to predict the impact that the new leg of tourism will have.
With a combination of the increase in cannabis sales and a whole new tourist market created, other states may be soon to follow Colorado and Washington as they legalize pot for recreational use. Raleigh says that once other states see the revenue that is being generated without the sky falling in, legalization will start to spread to other states. Raleigh says, “You just can’t stop the will of the people.”
By Brent Matsalla