As pot-related arrests keep stoners in other states on their toes, Colorado seems to have done a great job of keeping its shit together in the admittedly short time since legalization went into effect. With January tax revenue from cannabis sales exceeding $3.5 million dollars–$2M of that from recreational sales–Governor Hickenlooper’s office bumped up the state’s estimated annual windfall from $70M to almost $98M. And that doesn’t even including pot-related sales such as pipes, vape-pens, and what must be sky-high fast food revenue. The future looks bright.
And Colorado is making the right regulatory moves too. Just a few hours ago, Hickenlooper signed a bill requiring manufacturers of edibles to package their goods in opaque, childproof containers. And while this is apparently a controversial move to some, judging by the comment-monsters expressing libertarian fury below articles around the web, we think this is a good common sense law. It’s pretty clear that the consumption of edibles by children and pets is gearing up to be one of the most effective scaremongering tools used by legalization foes and fear-happy media. Every reasonable step the state can take to demonstrate its commitment to marijuana safety is a step in the right direction. The law also keeps Colorado in line with Department of Justice guidelines issued in August that must be followed in order to keep the feds off of the state’s back in this experiment. Those guidelines also inspired Colorado’s other big nanny-state move: A series of hilarious ads aimed at preventing stoned driving. Way more effective and appropriate than those stupid Obamacare ads.
Back to pot-related income for a moment: “The Marijuana Economy” is truly taking off, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Late last week, as many as 1200 job-seekers waited in line for hours as the nation’s first ever cannabis job fair debuted featuring approximately 150 jobs. That 1200 figure is nearly double the 6-700 applicants expected. I drove past the venue very late in the day and lines were still stretched around the block. And while that may say more about the state of the economy than it does the popularity of pot, other entrepreneurs are launching “luxury pot tours” and “smoker-friendly canna-boutique” hotels for the pot tourist. The pot industry is becoming a real industry with, like, lobbyists and stuff.
So while the current myopic media lens is framed squarely on tax revenue from marijuana sales, when all pot-related income is taken into account, the state is going to see one tremendous payday.
That’s not to say that it’s all rainbows and butterflies here in Colorado. No, prohibition forces are still strong, convinced they are witnessing the unraveling of civilization as they know it, and doing what they can to make things difficult for all cannabis consumers. It’s a true culture war. So while the Colorado Supreme Court gears up to make a decision about the legality of firing workers for medicating with cannabis–even when off the clock–some 20% of employers in the state say they have “implemented more stringent drug-testing policies” since marijuana was legalized. The American Bar Association recently released a statement warning workers that employers are well within their legal rights to fire pot-users. Amy Dannemiller’s is a good lesson. We wrote about her Edible Events catering company back in January. After what felt like an eternity of positive press about her plans to pair food with weed in art gallery settings, her real employer (the one who provided the paycheck) caught a special on television about her new endeavor and proceeded to promptly fire her.
And while marijuana arrests do continue to happen–though at a much lower rate–in the state, it now looks like some pot offenders will have their convictions reversed, though the decision’s exact reach and future remains murky.
Similar things are happening around the nation. Maryland legislators are toying around with bills that would not only decriminalize pot, but also expunge the records of those previously convicted of marijuana charges should decriminalization pass.
As a matter of fact, more than half of all states have either already taken steps towards decriminalization, or have bills being considered by legislatures or going before voters that would allow at the very least medicinal use. DC decriminalized it. Alaska and Massachusetts are on their way. Even in states like Iowa where state legislatures seem as if they would never consider legalization in a million years, overwhelming majorities support the medical stuff. There have been some setbacks in states like Kentucky, and Washington is experiencing growing pains–along with possible discrimination by the FBI–but there is little doubt that national mood on this issue has shifted.
Just today the Department of Health and Human Services gave the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)–a pro-pot group–the go ahead to purchase weed from the National Institute on Drug Abuse which runs the only federally-sanctioned marijuana “research farm.” They plan on studying the effects of cannabis on PTSD patients–the first time the federal government has ever allowed a study involving smoked or vaporized marijuana.
I’ve always believed that there will only be one way to know for sure that the legalization movement has made it: The banks. Referendums come and go, constitutions can be amended. Presidents change, and their administrations’ priorities along with them. But what never changes in this country is the power of the big bank. As long as it is illegal for a financial institution to accept what the federal government deems drug money, otherwise legal marijuana organizations will remain on the fringe. They’ll remain cash businesses, unable to receive legitimate loans, forced to transport hundreds of thousands of cash money to tax offices and banks in the trunks of their car. They’ll stay open as businesses whose livelihood is threatened by the next national election. If the feds open the door to banks openly performing business with these companies, then all bets are off. That is a door that can’t be closed. And now we see a crack: In February, the Obama administration “laid out a path for banks to bring marijuana commerce out of the shadows and into the mainstream financial system,” by allowing banks to submit a “marijuana priority” report–basically a workaround allowing banks to work with legal marijuana businesses as long as they meet the DOJ criteria we mentioned earlier. Now, technically, this is an executive order and could be reversed by a future administration. But if that door swings open, there is no turning back: The national parties do not bite the hand that feeds them.
In commentary and investigation, Slate concludes their wonderful Altered State series with an article about concentrates and how dabbing may spell trouble for the legalization experiment. People are blowing up their houses making this stuff, triggering warning bells for anybody who’s heard the horror stories about exploding meth labs. Meanwhile, growers in Florida are causing power outages.
One-time skeptic and all the time CNN doctor dude Sanjay Gupta has become quite the marijuana advocate, releasing a second pro-pot special.
And in a must-read Alternet piece, drugs editor April Short covers a talk by civil rights attorney and author of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Anderson, as she discusses white privilege and the legalization movement. It’s a reminder that there really are two Americas, and despite the incredible progress we’ve seen over the last few years in many areas of civil rights, there are flaws inherent in this nation’s structure and legal system that will require more than the decriminalization of pot to address. As a matter of fact, she claims, the very people getting rich on legalization are indicative of the problem.
And just in case you missed it, Stephen Colbert reminds us all that “The market has spoken and the market is tokin!”