Colorado proves that it’s possible to smoothly launch a legal pot market


(Photo by Gabe Silverman/The Washington Post)

The first independent in-depth study of Colorado’s seven-month old legalization of recreational marijuana concludes that, despite a few kinks, its implementation is off to a successful start.

Brookings Institution Fellow John Hudak, who spent a week in Denver examining the rollout, says early results are impressive thanks to planning and coordination across multiple agencies and groups interested in and affected by the new law. His report also praises the creation of “marijuana policy czar” in the governor’s office to maintain that coordination and a comprehensive regulatory structure.

However, Hudak's study, also reaffirms problems related to the size, packaging and potency of edibles. Hudak describes a visit to a retail marijuana dispensary during which he observed the “budtender” explain to a couple that the marijuana brownie they were interested in contained six servings and needed to be consumed in small chunks over time.

“The information was correct and clear, but who eats a sixth of a brownie or a quarter of a candy bar?” Hudak writes.

Likewise, the “gray market,” the legal-but-unregulated medicinal marijuana homegrow operations, provide an easy, backdoor route into the black market. The sale of pot to the underground not only competes with legal, licensed recreational sales, but threatens to bring federal intervention, Hudak says. And, he says, the gray market continues to thrive in part because high taxation on retail marijuana has thwarted the state’s hoped-for migration from the medical market into the retail market. In fact, since the state legalized recreational marijuana, the number of registered medical marijuana patients has increased.

One possible solution, he writes, is to raise tax rates on medical marijuana, lower them on retail marijuana or both.

The state, he writes, is responding to all these issues.

Read my deep dive into Colorado's pot market here.

Tina Griego is a reporter for Storyline. Previously, Tina was a city columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post for a combined 12 years.
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