Just weeks into the Colorado law that legalized cannabis for recreational use for anyone over the age of 21, the new law already has caused ripples that are good, bad, and some are just plain ugly.
The sheer ugly that the new law has brought are that some experts are expecting drug cartels to start targeting some of the legal pot dealers. When the new law was passed it essentially put all the illegal cartels out of business in Colorado. It is not only robbery of the retail cannabis shops that have the experts worried, it is the anxiety around possible extortion attempts that have them the most worried.
Mexican cartels are notorious for their brutal and immoral and inhumane way of dealing with the competition. Juarez and Sinaloa are two Mexican cartels that currently operate in Colorado. The cartels were probably not too happy to learn that sales from cannabis were estimated to be $1 million for the first legal day of sales in Colorado. They are expected to lose $1.425 billion over the legalization in Colorado; however that amount doesn’t include the drop of 20 to 50 percent in trafficking revenue the cartels will also be losing. Denver police and DEA continue to monitor the situation watching intently for any cartels to make moves in attempts to extort money from the legal shops.
One of the bad things that the legalization has brought is the stealing of government property. Last week the Colorado government had to replace the 420 mile-marker on Interstate 70 to discourage theft. For those that don’t know, 420 is a number in cannabis culture where marijuana smoking was promoted on the 4th month, 20th day (April 20) and promoted as being smoked daily at 4:20p.m., or 4:20a.m. For those reasons 420 has been adopted as a number meaning cannabis, marijuana, weed, or pot. The Colorado government replaced the 420 mile-marker with a sign that marks the distance at 419.99 to discourage any cannabis fans from stealing the sign. Whether this will work will remain to be seen as the 419.99 sign may have now become a new target for passersby to grab a memento when leaving the state.
Another bit of bad the Colorado law has brought is the price of cannabis. The demand for cannabis product has become so enormous that the supplies have dwindled and prices have started to climb. Retail prices for cannabis jumped from $2,500 per pound to around $6,000 per pound just around the time of the first day of legalization.
The ugly and bad aside, there are some areas that are split between the good and the bad in the exploration the effect of the Colorado law legalizing cannabis.
The first of the good and bad situations balancing the scale is the local and state taxes on cannabis being between 20-25 percent. While it’s bad for the consumer it is good for local and state governments. Without the tax revenue being generated there would be no benefit to the government legalizing cannabis for recreational use. It is estimated that the new taxes would generate $130 million per year for the Colorado government if the industry generates $600 million from the legalization. Many think the industry may generate up to double that amount.
The other good and bad scenario is that experts are worried what kind of message the legalization of cannabis for recreational use sends to the children of Colorado about drugs. It is bad to send the message to children that getting stoned is an acceptable activity. However it is a good thing this is being addressed by government and groups that will have funding generated from the cannabis taxes to help educate the youth on marijuana use. Well educated children are definitely a good thing.
Part of the good effects of the new marijuana laws are arrests are down by 77 percent on one law last year and possession charges fell by 81 percent in the first nine month of 2012. Freedom is another good thing linked to the number of arrests dropping, but freedom is always good in any scenario.
Another good aspect of the law is now consumers know exactly what they are getting when they purchase cannabis in Colorado. Before the law was passed a consumer never could be really sure what they were ingesting. Buying marijuana from a licensed shop guarantees the quality and monitors the safety of the cannabis strains.
The retail legal cannabis stores are good for those that are seeking marijuana for medical purposes. Some that may have struggled in the past to find a source for their organic medicine will have an endless choice at any of the many legal cannabis shops across the state.
The cannabis craze in Colorado has also caused a lot of good in the number of cannabis-related jobs it has generated. To keep up with the demand many of the cannabis-related businesses have had to hire many more employees. Job creation is good for any economy whether it be on any local or state-wide level.
With Colorado under the microscope of the world, other states and countries are watching intently to see how things in Colorado unfold. Since the government and law enforcement officials seem to have a good grasp of keeping things in order, the legalization law for recreational use is expected to overflow into other states. These states anxiously want to score all the good points that Colorado is taking advantage of since January 1. Freedom to choose whether to ingest marijuana or not in other states and locations are a good thing.
Colorado has done a good job in launching a smooth transition in the new legal recreational use law. This also may attract other states to follow and in 2014, Rhode Island, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Alaska are looking to pass a similar law to Colorado’s.
In measuring the effect of the Colorado cannabis law and considering that the good/bad scenarios cancel each other out, the tally stands at the legalization of marijuana in Colorado at: 10 percent ugly, 20 percent bad, and 70 percent all good.
By Brent Matsalla