Getting to the Root

Getting to the Root

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At best, even the most resistant/stubborn lawmakers have grudgingly been making comments like “we’ll continue to keep a close eye on things,” and other half-hearted acknowledgements that things haven’t been as terrible as they expected/predicted/hoped.

At the same time, other supporters are more enthusiastic, saying that this is only the beginning of a great time for these states that were early adopters, and there’s plenty more positive benefits coming, everything from additional tourism (and tourism dollars) to a healthier population to less crime to more money for cash-strapped states and cities.

Retailers and producers continue to grow in Washington and Colorado, and the marketplace still is trying to determine the proper ratios of shops to patrons and producers to shops.

By most accounts, the state situation is going well. Here’s a snapshot.

Washington. The Evergreen State made things legal in 2012, and the first shop opened in 2014. A July 2015 report by the Drug Policy Alliance showed that low-level marijuana-related criminal offenses have dropped by 98 percent, law violations dropped by 63 percent and convictions by 81 percent. Violent crime has dropped 10 percent. Traffic accident data has remained steady, although safety experts say it might be too early to see any effects specifically to marijuana use. As of summer 2015, the state received at least $65 million from taxes on sales, which goes into the general fund. Bloomberg estimated that at this rate, tax revenue could hit $1 billion in five years.

Along with recreational retailers, the state now requires medicinal dispensaries to have a retail license, which is expected to double the number of granted recreational licenses from about 200 statewide to more than 400. While some cities have welcomed the new economy, others have created local laws to keep them out.

Colorado. The second pioneer state to ‘go green’ has also seen generally positive results. Retail sales began in 2014, and state experts estimate there are now just over 300 retailers and 500 dispensaries.

In its first year, sales were estimated at $700 million, which included $313 from recreational and $386 million from medicinal use. Of this, about 109,578 medical pounds were sold and 38,660 pounds recreational pounds were sold. This total equates to state revenue of about $63 million.

However, a Newsweek article has pointed out there may be some unintended consequences, such as increases in teen overdoses from edibles; an increase in homelessness in major population areas; and fears from the agricultural industry that pesticides and chemicals sometimes used in marijuana cultivation could affect fruit and other unrelated crops.

And, others claim there has been a 32 percent rise in marijuana-related traffic deaths, which opponents blame directly on the drug, while supporters say is statistically insignificant with a gradual decrease in overall traffic deaths.

Other states. Voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. have approved recreational marijuana in recent years, and all of these areas are still putting together policies and procedures. Oregon is currently accepting applications for recreational licenses, and limited amounts of recreational use can be made at licensed medical dispensaries. Alaska is also accepting applications, although there have been legislative attempts to ban businesses in unincorporated areas. D.C. has seen the most confusion – voters approved a recreational initiative, which the mayor supports. However,Congress has opposed the effort.
Residents of other states, and many municipalities, are continuing to watch how things grow in these states, pun very much intended. The increased revenue is attractive, as is the potential decrease in demands on the criminal justice system. However, pot continues to be illegal on the federal front, and law enforcement in states surrounding the legal states are concerned about an increase in people bringing it to sell there, or simply passing through with something purchased legally but with the intent of selling elsewhere.

Nevada County, CA