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December 29, 2013

Any short- or long-term Colorado predictions as recreational marijuana sales are set to begin?

Lots of mainstream (as well as not-so-mainstream) media outlets are now talking a lot about what may or may not happen in Colorado a few days from now when state-legalized and regulated sales of recreational marijuana begins with the start of 2014.  This Reuters article is just one of many covering the buzz surrounding the opportunity for folks in Colorado to have a new legal way to get buzzed.   Here how it starts:

The world's first state-licensed marijuana retailers, catering to Colorado's newly legal recreational market for pot, are stocking their shelves ahead of a New Year's grand opening that supporters and detractors alike see as a turning point in America's drug culture....

[S]tarting January 1, cannabis will be legally sold and taxed at specially regulated retailers in a system modeled after a regime many states have in place for alcohol sales - but which exists for marijuana nowhere outside of Colorado.

For the novelty factor alone, operators of the first eight marijuana retailers slated to open on Wednesday morning in Denver and a handful of establishments in other locations are anticipating a surge in demand for store-bought weed.  "It will be like people waiting in line for tickets to a Pink Floyd concert," said Justin Jones, 39, owner of Dank Colorado in Denver who has run a medical marijuana shop for four years and now has a recreational pot license.

Jones said he is confident he has enough marijuana on hand for Day One but less sure of inventory levels needed after that.   About 90 percent of his merchandise is in smokable form, packaged in small child-proof containers.  The rest is a mixture of cannabis-infused edibles, such as cookies, candy and carbonated drinks.  "People seem to prefer smoking," he said.

In addition to the "Black Friday"-type atmosphere sure to part of the New Year's Day experiences in Denver, this AFP article highlights that some folks are planning a road-trip in order to get to Colorado for another kind of trip:

Enterprising companies are even offering marijuana tours to cash in on tourists expected to be attracted to a Netherlands-style pot culture -- including in Colorado's famous ski resorts.  "Just the novelty alone is bringing people from everywhere," said Adam Raleigh of cannabis supplier Telluride Bud Co.

"I have people driving in from Texas, Arizona, Utah... to be a part of history.  Over the last month I have received somewhere between four to six emails a day and five to 10 phone calls a day asking all about the law and when should people plan their ski trip to go along with cannabis," he added.

But as highlighted in this lengthy AP article, headlined "Legal pot sales begin amid uncertainty in Colorado," perhaps the only real certainty come 2014 in Colorado is uncertainty:

Will it be a showcase for a safe, regulated pot industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year and saves money on locking up drug criminals, or one that will prove, once and for all, that the federal government has been right to ban pot since 1937?

Legal pot's potential has spawned businesses beyond retail shops. Marijuana-testing companies have popped up, checking regulated weed for potency and screening for harmful molds. Gardening courses charge hundreds to show people how to grow weed at home....

Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, maker of pot-infused foods and drinks, is making new labels for the recreational market and expanding production on everything from crispy rice treats to fruit lozenges. "The genie is out of the bottle," says company president Tripp Keber. "I think it's going to be an exciting time over the next 24 to 48 months."...

The challenges, activists and regulators say, are daunting in Colorado and Washington. One of the biggest questions is whether they have built an industry that will not only draw in tens of millions of dollars in revenue but also make a significant dent in the illegal market. Another is whether the regulatory system is up to the task of controlling a drug that's never been regulated.

There are public health and law enforcement concerns, including whether wide availability of a drug with a generations-old stigma of ruining lives will lead to more underage drug use, more cases of driving while high and more crime....

To prevent the criminal element from getting a foothold, regulators have enacted residency requirements for business owners, banned out-of-state investment and run background checks on every applicant for a license to sell or grow the plant. Whether the systems are enough is anyone's guess.

I like the descriptive phrase that the "genie is out of the bottle," and think the green marijuana genie could grant many wishes and also create many nightmares. And I am eager to hear reader thoughts and predictions about what might happen in this arena in 2014 before the official start of this unofficial "turning point in America's drug culture."

December 29, 2013 at 11:28 PM | Permalink


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Like most changes, legalization of marijuana will bring blessings and curses. With luck, the blessings will prevail. I predict that when the other states see how much income legalization generates for Colorado, many will follow in lockstep--See End of Prohibition.

Posted by: anon | Dec 30, 2013 11:20:43 AM

My prediction is in the end this experiment will be short-lived. The reason? Opium dens. That experiment didn't work so well either. And while it is true that at a chemical level marijuana is not directly comparable to opium I believe that its effects will be as socially pernicious. Big cities think they have a homeless problem now? Wait until all those homeless are also strung out on dope.

The biggest problem with libertarians and drug laws is that they view those laws from the perspective of the "responsible user". We are going to find out that once legal most people are not responsible users. This reality won't become clear immediately because the initial demand for the drug will come from the responsible user. But in the end the bad will outweigh whatever the perceived good is.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 30, 2013 1:03:57 PM

Daniel, I share your concern. I don't know about opium dens, but I do remember the chapter in the Odyssey entitled "the Lotus Eaters." As I recall, on his way home from the Trojan War, Ulysses and his crew stop at this Island where all the natives sit around stoned all day on some substance that grows on the island. The crew gets hooked and just want to stay. Ulysses ends up having to tie up the crew members and forcibly take them back to the ship.

Legalization could turn us all into Lotus-eaters. But, on the other hand, we are not all alcoholics. Nor are we all addicted to cigarettes.

So we'll just have to see.

Posted by: anon | Dec 30, 2013 1:40:44 PM

anon, you get a 95% on your classics final. Here's what I found on Wikipedia:

"In the Odyssey IX, Odysseus tells how adverse north winds blew him and his men off course as they were rounding Cape Malea, the southernmost tip of the Peloponnesus, headed westwards for Ithaca:

'I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of 9 days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.'"

Will Coloradans turn into lotus eater? We'll see.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Dec 31, 2013 10:42:22 AM

California will have an Initiative in 2014 to legalize marijuana. A legislative analyst predicts the following fiscal consequences:

"Reduced costs in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Potential net additional tax revenues in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana, a portion of which is required to be spent on education, health care, public safety, drug abuse education and treatment, and the regulation of commercial marijuana activities."

If true, marijuana legalization will prove a financial bonanza to state governments.

Posted by: Dave from California | Dec 31, 2013 11:45:21 AM

Here's my long and short term prediction: the consumption of marijuana will increase. Statistics will show little to no meaningful change in rates of accidents, admissions to hospitals, mental illness, etc. correlated with that increase. But every time anything bad happens and someone involved has used marijuana, it will be held up as proof that legalized marijuana is bringing about the end of the world in Colorado.

Posted by: C.E. | Jan 1, 2014 1:30:17 AM

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