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The BBC investigates legal cannabis in Colorado
In a recent broadcast, the BBC investigated the impact of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. In January 2014 the state of Colorado became the first in the US to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. What have the consequences of this decision been? The BBC investigates legal cannabis in Colorado.
Cannabis tourism has certainly grown as a result, with visitors flocking to Colorado from all over the US and indeed, the world. But the legalization of Cannabis should not be regarded as free license for its sale and consumption.
Regulation is real, and dispensaries must be officially authorized in order to run their businesses. Users must be over 21 in order to be admitted to the premises and advertising and signage is limited by law. Provided these requirements have been observed, shoppers can browse dispensaries, sniffing the produce and deciding what form of cannabis would suit them best.
But it’s not only thrill seekers and tourists that make up the dispensaries’ clientele. BBC journalists interviewed a dispensary client who uses cannabis for medicinal reasons. He says that he always believed it was an “evil drug” after being “raised on the reefer madness of the sixties”. His pastor recommended that he use medical marijuana, and although he initially felt guilty about using cannabis, his wife encouraged him to continue after seeing the improvement it had made to his quality of life.
Since legislation requires that dispensaries grow their own products in the interests of transparency, and that these crops should be fully enclosed, indoor growing operations have boomed. The turnover of the legal cannabis industry in Colorado is worth billions.
Cannabis based products have proliferated beyond expectation. Cannabis oil patches for transdermal absorption, edibles, drinks and sublingual oils are only a few of the cannabis based products now available in Colorado. Producers report that constraints on smoking have sparked the demand for the many other cannabis formulations now available.
Regretfully, this had led to unpleasant THC overdoses since edibles take approximately 90 minutes to take effect, whereas smoking produces an immediate effect. As a result, vendors report that inexperienced users may consume too much cannabis, and by the time the effects kick in, they’ve already had way too much and may experience nausea, paranoia and other uncomfortable symptoms.
The BBC reports that the need for controlled portions has led to a completely new industry that ranges from cannabis based drinks to dabs and vaporizing cannabis oils. “We build the plane while we’re flying it” says one cannabis products manufacturer commenting on the lack of guidance and prior precedent in developing and releasing legally compliant cannabis products.
Colorado legislation changed after voters decided to end anti-cannabis legislation in a referendum. “We were told to run really fast and we did,” says one official. Colorado government is also benefiting, not only from taxes levied on cannabis products, but from licensing fees.
Federal officials warn that according to Federal Law, Cannabis is still illegal, and according to the letter of the law, all growing operations and dispensaries are officially illegal even if Colorado law says they aren’t. As a result, banks are refusing to handle cash from Cannabis businesses, fearing that they will face prosecution under Federal law. As a result, all cannabis business is transacted in cash, creating serious security risks for operators.
Ultimately, Cannabis business remains a rogue industry, leaving the future of the new cannabis mega-businesses in question. What do you think about the future of the new cannabis mega-business?