California legalized recreational marijuana Jan. 1.
California legalized recreational marijuana Jan. 1.
File photo by Brett Levin/Flickr

Cannabis Watch 2018: What Can We Learn From Colorado?

It was in November 2012 that Colorado residents voted in favor of the legalization of recreational cannabis, which came into effect in January 2014. Exactly four years later, we’re ideally placed to look east at what those folks did right and wrong. You can be sure the powers that be have been doing exactly that. Here are five things to keep an eye on.

Weed created masses of jobs.

In 2015 alone, 18,000 new full-time jobs were created and $2.4 billion in economic activity was generated by legal marijuana. Those numbers can’t be ignored. A study by the consulting firm Marijuana Policy Group, reported by the Chicago Tribune, measured sales numbers for two years, and saw $1 billion in retail sales in 2015.

"If this is done right, regulated right, taxed right, this industry can bring real economic benefits to a state," study co-author and MPG founder Adam Orens said. "If the state or the local governments manage, permit and enforce [marijuana regulation] in a thoughtful way, then this can have real benefits."

Use taxes wisely.
According to a Vox story, cannabis taxes raised tens of millions of dollars that helped rebuild crumbling schools, with Colorado allocating $40 million in tax money to the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program. Per Vox:

“I don’t care where the money comes from. If we get a new school, I’m for it,” Hayley Whitehead … who works for the [Deer Trail] school district, told the Denver Post. “I see the invoices and see what we need for repairs, so I have a pretty good idea of the situation here.”

  There are a few public school staffers in Los Angeles County that might have similar ideas.

Keep control.

Just because weed is legal, it doesn’t mean the whole state has to devolve into some Cheech & Chong–esque free-for-all. And, honestly, that was never going to happen. A few common-sense laws, and everyone should be happy. Does anyone really need to be told not to drive stoned? C’mon now. There are restrictions on how many plants you can grow at home, and, of course, consuming weed for those under 21 is a definite no-no. It’s a no-brainer, really.

Focus on edibles.
When Gov. Jerry Brown asked Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper for advice, the man affectionately known as Hick told Brown to focus on controlling those edibles, particularly the ones designed to look like candy and soda in order to appeal to kids. As reported by the L.A. Times:

“We didn’t regulate edibles strongly enough at first,” Hickenlooper said in an interview this week at a gathering in Coronado of the Western Governors’ Assn.  He cited a spike in emergency room visits by kids who had eaten marijuana products and two cases in which young adults who had reportedly consumed marijuana edibles died — one after shooting himself and the other after jumping off a hotel balcony.

Don’t panic.

There really hasn’t been any significant change in health issues in Colorado since January 2014, and the general opinion is “so far, so good.” Of course, these things have to be carefully regulated and monitored, and we have faith that California, and Los Angeles, will do that.

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