The United States of cannabis

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Courtesy of FEMA
Washington, DC, October 24, 2008 -- Close up of the American Flag. FEMA/Bill Koplitz

The recent election yielded massive marijuana reform across the country as four states voted to legalize recreational marijuana and four legalized medical marijuana. Alongside the concurrent election of Mr. Trump, this means a lot of change for marijuana reform movements and the industry, almost certainly changing the legal viability of cannabis as we know it.

Although the marijuana industry is used to uncertainty, President Obama and his administration did offer certain assurances to states with legalized medical and recreational markets — as long as they followed certain best practices, the federal government promised not to interfere.

While Trump has been vocal in endorsing the right of states to legalize marijuana, some of his rumored cabinet members, like Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich, are vocally opposed and vow to revoke federal tolerance of state legalizations.

Regardless of what might happen at the federal level, the marijuana result on election day is good news for national reform and consumers, but as local lobbyist Shawn Coleman reminded Boulder City Council in an email last week, broader change affects local politics.

“It is essential to view marijuana regulation in Boulder in the proper context as part of an established and expanding national industry,” Coleman wrote. 

Up until this point Colorado regulators have not been overly concerned with how the state ought to best position itself as part of a national market. Instead they favored tight controls justified as protections against unknown public health and safety risks.

But now that 28 states have legal marijuana markets, business owners worry that the regulations are antiquated and too slow to change, acting as a threat to Colorado’s industry rather than as a protection to unrealized fears.

“Colorado is established as an industry leader, we are known for that, it is just accepted,” Andy Williams, CEO of Medicine Man, said prior to the election. “But that leadership is going to whittle away rather quickly because of onerous regulatory restrictions in Colorado that are not really needed anymore. Investors and businesses will go to other states that don’t have those restrictions.”

He pointed to barriers like state rules that prohibit publicly owned companies in Colorado or city-level ordinances that limit the number of businesses an owner can have within a city’s limit. These, he said, pose artificial restrictions that will ultimately harm the industry and the state as revenue leaks to states with less restrictive regulations.

The most significant challenge to Colorado will undoubtedly come from California, the world’s eighth largest economy, which expects to bring in $6.46 billion in annual revenue by 2020 from cannabis alone.

In a June interview, Nancy Whiteman, Edibles Chair of the Cannabis Business Alliance, said, “[legalization in California] could have a big effect on Colorado. Many Colorado businesses cannot justify purchasing million dollar equipment when really you can only sell within your own state. Businesses in California will not have the same demand ceiling as us.”

“Think of this as a race, a race that is dependent on federal and state regulations, with everyone in the industry vying for position for, if and when the federal status of marijuana changes,” Williams said.

In economies more comparable to Colorado’s, like Massachusetts, Maine or Nevada, fledgling markets are not expected to pose direct competition, at least not in the foreseeable future. But it will likely take a bite out of the state’s marijuana tourism activity and revenue.

“We know that Boulder businesses rely on tourism business, and the success of California, Massachusetts and Nevada in particular pose a strong challenge to that business, as many tourists to Colorado have come from those states,” Coleman wrote to Boulder City Council.

The businesses that will struggle most will be the lesser talked about small businesses that hold the majority of ava

ilable licenses and make up only a small percentage of revenue.

In most other industries you can chalk this up to natural selection mechanisms built into capitalism that allow the strong to survive while the weak expire. But when it comes to Colorado’s cannabis market, the fate of businesses is often determined by state and local regulations.

“[Boulder] Council had a stated policy goal of a diverse marijuana industry in the city,” Coleman wrote. “While the success of no business can nor should be guaranteed or protected by municipal policy, now is the time to ensure that at minimum the barriers to success are removed, particularly for the smaller businesses whose entire investment is in Boulder.” 

  • Brian Kelly

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and glorified as an All American pastime, booze.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!

    • Brian Kelly

      The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

      Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

      The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

      Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

      The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

      Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

      Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

      • Brian Kelly

        In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

        In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

        Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

        People who consume marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

        Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make them out to be. They are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

        Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

        Although that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

        To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, advertises, and even glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

        There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long hard day than having a drink or two of alcohol.

        So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

        We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

        Has a marijuana consumer ever forced you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force anybody not to either.

        Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon everybody else with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

        Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

    • Gropple

      Gun rights for marijuana users too. MM patients are unduly having constitutional rights taken from them.

      • Brian Kelly

        Absolutely. Marijuana consumers should have equal rights and protections under our laws that booze drinkers have.

        • It’s ILLEGAL to possess a Firearm if you’re a user of any illegal substance, or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

          It’s also illegal to possess a firearm if you are intoxicated, even under State law.

      • Ammosexuals should not be stoned or drunk.

        Make your choice.

        • Gropple

          You can have a medical card, or be a marijuana user and still operate firearms sober. As it stands now, people are getting denied on background checks if they have a mm card. I dont need to make a choice.

          • Federal Law on firearms clearly states that NO Illegal User of Drugs, or anyone addicted to drugs, may legally purchase or possess a firearm.

            Make a choice, your precious pistols or your pot.

          • Gropple

            I choose civil disobedience. I know how to operate my rifle correctly and safely, and know how weed affects me. I am not a danger to the public, so Im going to continue to buy guns and smoke weed. Telling me to make a choice on a message board doesnt change the fact I have an AR15 in my gun safe, and am going to purchase marijuana in about 10 minutes

          • Federal Prison is full of law breaking fools like you.

  • No State has actually LEGALIZED marijuana.

    Not one.