Q: Has pot turned out to be the tax revenue cash cow people thought it would be or has it exceeded expectations? How and why?
A: First of all, I am not sure how anyone could have accurately predicted how much tax revenue marijuana would have added to state coffers. This was previously a black market item worldwide and our legislative analysts were pretty spot on. In the first year, most cities had not yet hopped on board. Boulder did not have its first legal sales until mid-2014 and Aurora did not have have their first sales until the end of 2014. As more city bans are lifted, the closer we will get to the anticipated revenue benchmarks.
Q: Retail and medical sides are regulated differently. Should they be?
A: Absolutely they should be different. There are children under 21 no longer suffering from seizures and many other debilitating diseases that even CNN anchor Dr. Sanjay Gupta is changing his mind on medical marijuana. At the same time it’s a no-brainer to say that a 5-year-old should not be recreationally using.
Q: Why isn’t there enough lab-testing capacity?
A: This is one of the issues that we are still catching up to. We had to set up a robust licensing and tracking system to make sure legal marijuana was not falling into the hands of kids and criminals. Lab testing was not originally the same priority considering Amendment 64 set a very ambitious timeline to get marijuana to market. That said, I think that as we move away from this being a law enforcement issue and more of a product safety issue, testing capacity will ramp up in the next year. I know there are several legislators pushing on this issue this year.
Q: If marijuana is reclassified by the federal government from Schedule I to Schedule II, how do you think that would impact Colorado’s recreational marijuana? How do you think it should be classified?
A: This would potentially change everything from banking issues, to medical research, to child abuse reporting requirements. This would push marijuana even further out of the shadows to a point where more people would be willing to have honest conversations about how to treat this drug. This would be a boon for business and public safety.
Q: What’s your take on the legality of home hash oil production? Should the state address this — actually, can it? The A64 measure says its definition for marijuana “does not include industrial hemp, nor does it include fiber produced from the stalks, oil, or cake made from the seeds of the plant…” The state attorney general (then John Suthers) had said that it is illegal, based on the comma placement.
A: Well, I think that everyone pretty much agrees that people should stop blowing up their homes. I think we can regulate the “how” of hash oil production. There are plenty of safer extraction methods that can be used at home. Cities and counties have plenty of zoning restrictions on numerous processes and products. There are even local ordinances related to noise and smell (Greeley had an odor ordinance). I think we have to be very careful about re-criminalizing marijuana and start educating the public on how to make safer choices around marijuana, including hash oil extraction.
Q: A common complaint about the regulated-like-alcohol aspect of Amendment 64 are the harsher felony criminal penalties for marijuana. Why do they differ?
A: Marijuana is still federally illegal and I think that the state of Colorado wanted to show the federal government that we were serious about enforcing the law. What we did not want was federal agents randomly busting legitimate businesses in Colorado because of a perception of lax enforcement. That said, we need to revisit these kinds of laws. The main reason I wanted to see marijuana legal was to end our racially and economically biased drug laws that wasted taxpayer dollars and didn’t make us any safer. I would like to see a fast-track, record-sealing process for petty marijuana crimes that would now be considered legal actions (such as possession), so people are not stigmatized in a way that hurts them when they are trying to land a job or even just a place to live.